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Newfoundland hunger striker speaks with federal fisheries minister

Fishermen placed fishing gear, to impede traffic flow, at the entranceway to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in St. John's to lend support to Richard Gillett, vice-president of the Federation Of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador, on April 20, 2017.

Paul Daly/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The federal fisheries minister has spoken with a celebrity fisherman on a hunger strike to bring attention to what he calls Ottawa's dire mismanagement of stocks ranging from crab to capelin.

A spokeswoman for Dominic LeBlanc said the fisheries minister spoke with Richard Gillett for more than an hour on Thursday evening, covering a broad range of issues.

Laura Gareau said the two agreed to speak again, adding that LeBlanc expressed concern for Gillett's health, and urged him to make his health and family a priority.

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About three dozen protesters went to the federal fisheries office in St. John's, N.L., on Thursday morning to show support for Gillett, who has been on a hunger strike since last Thursday.

Gareau said LeBlanc also expressed concern that the protest prevented nearly 400 Department of Fisheries and Oceans employees from getting to work, interrupting their ability to serve fish harvesters across Newfoundland and Labrador.

Linda Gillett said her son participated in the protest, though she said he is walking very slowly and becoming weak due to his lack of nourishment.

"As his mother, I'm getting pretty worried about him right now. I don't know if he's going last too many more days," she said.

"But he's determined he's going to until they come across with his demands or we'll have to call the ambulance and take him off."

Gillett is known for his three seasons on the reality show "Cold Water Cowboys," and is vice-president of the Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL).

In addition to talking with LeBlanc, Gillett is seeking an independent review of science and management for all provincial fish stocks.

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He also wants a review of the relationship between the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union, representing harvesters, and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Gillett said he decided to do something drastic last week after LeBlanc refused to meet with him and FISH-NL president Ryan Cleary as they visited Ottawa.

In an emailed statement, Kevin Anderson, regional director general for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, has said he understands it's a difficult time and the department is willing to listen.

Anderson said scientific stock assessments are shared publicly and that fish harvesters are consulted.

video: A look at Newfoundland’s massive Hebron oil platform (The Canadian Press)
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