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Letter: Time for some logic and reason in fisheries management

Fishing boats at St. John’s harbour Wednesday. Many fishermen are doubtful owner-operator and fleet separation policies can be enforced enough to be effective.
Fishing boats at St. John’s harbour Wednesday. Many fishermen are doubtful owner-operator and fleet separation policies can be enforced enough to be effective.

Finally, DFO scientists have spoken and agree with statements I’ve been making for years with respect to harvesting our ocean resources (Fran Mowbray speaking of caplin, and Gary Stenson speaking of cod).  Even the president of the FFAW (Keith Sullivan) and the head of NL-GIDC (Jim Baird) also agree. The activity of coastal fishers (commercial and food) using modest fishing gear is insignificant to the recovery of northern cod.  

My followup statement has been that any attempt to manage this activity rigorously (especially the food component) is foolish and simply a waste of resources at best and an abuse of power at worst.  The ridiculousness of this management activity is highlighted even further given the vastness of the ocean off our shores and the minuscule population on shore.

Now that we have agreement on the science among some of the major players, maybe we can get some logic and reason on the management side.

Fisheries management should concentrate on the significant, not the insignificant.

Related stories:

Poor outlook for caplin this year: DFO

Northern cod stock declined over last year; scientists urge minimum fishing effort

Apart from environmental change (which includes predator/prey dynamics), only large-scale industrial fishing activity is significant and can cause the kind of destruction we have observed here. In fact, large-scale industrial activity can not only deplete stocks, but also change the environment, thus doubling down on its significance. With today’s technology, large-scale industrial harvesting can, figuratively, catch the very last fish. 3PS cod, which survived the moratorium, was wiped out recently, after the moratorium! Gus Etchegary warned of these dangers while he was still part of the industry and before the moratorium. He should be listened to more.

To date, fisheries management policies from Canada have accomplished in 50 years what the lords and barons of Britain could not do in hundreds of years … depopulate rural Newfoundland and Labrador and criminalize those that remain trying to make a living from the sea and otherwise enjoy its bounty.

Instead of managing the fisheries to ensure the sustainability of the stocks for all, current and past fisheries policy and departmental behaviour makes Canada complicit in the destruction of these stocks.  

Fisheries management in the N.L. context has become: reserved for a few, until destroyed. 

Canadian management policy is now, and has been in the past, to adopt and allow the fishing practices and regulatory structures which caused the problem in the first place.

Back to the insignificance of coastal fishing. It is only insignificant to the fish stocks. Coastal fishing is very significant to the local population. It is time to call the dogs off the innocent and to point the guns (political) in the right direction. Rural Newfoundland and Labrador needs every bit of sustainable economic activity it can get. To deny access to the stocks for food, tourism and modest commercial activity is an abuse of power by Canada.

On the larger picture, the whole population of N.L. must realize that what has happened and is happening to the management of fish stocks of N.L. make the Muskrat Falls fiasco and the collapse of offshore oil prices look like minor economic inconveniences. Ask your local politician (municipal, provincial and federal) what he/she knows about how our most important resource is managed. You’ll be surprised. 

Make it an issue. 

Maybe in 30 years from now we’ll get an apology from Xavier James Trudeau for the destruction of yet another distinct culture.

Everett G. Fancey, P. Eng

St. John’s

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