Fisheries advocate takes minister to task on statements

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I had intended to call yesterday when you were on radio and discuss the recent NAFO meeting in Russia with you. While waiting online I heard you make two comments, which I know from long, long experience were not correct.

Dr. Darin King, Minister

Fisheries & Agriculture Minister;

I’m sure you made those statements on the basis of advice and information given you by your advisers.

Firstly, concerning the fact DFO scientists are using the statistics from the sentinel fisheries (which quotas are seriously overfished) in their assessment of the 2J/3KL cod stock. This is totally incorrect.

Scientists at DFO have absolutely no faith whatever in the accuracy of those statistics provided by the FFAW, who have a generous financial contract from DFO to monitor these statistics under the Dockside Landing Program.

The same applies to the so-called Food Fishery where the amount of fish taken is many, many times more than is allowable under the regulatory measures established. This is common knowledge in every community around our coastline.

Secondly, you mentioned the fact unless we take the Yellowtail quota it will be taken from us by the foreign members in NAFO. There has some validity only ‘if’ the Yellowtail resource had fully recovered and was left uncaught by the country holding the quota.

But the Yellowtail quota of 17,000 tons is only 50 per cent of its historical level of production, when it’s in a healthy state. In other words, it is still rebuilding and Canada should be given a ‘medal’ for permitting it to grow to its normal size and potential.

There is no way any other country can claim the quota under the circumstances.

While on this subject, Minister, let me remind you at a previous NAFO meeting held in Spain our ‘illustrious’ Ambassadors and other

Newfoundland and Labradorians on the Canadian negotiating team agreed (in the NAFO meeting)  to increasing the traditional bycatch percentage of American Plaice, in the Yellowtail fishery, from five to 13 per cent, thus putting a huge roadblock in the recovery of the far more valuable American Plaice.

Anyone with a grain of knowledge of the Flounder species fishery knows the AP species was the backbone and the most important species that kept the South Coast offshore plants operating from 1984 to 1992. Flounders represented 75 per cent of the production of those plants.

The annual quota of AP ranged around 50 to 55,000 tons annually and the Yellowtail around 25 to 35,000 tons. All landings were processed while the smaller Yellowtails were produced for further secondary processing to increase its market value at Fishery Products Inc.’s plant in Danvers, Massachusetts.

Unfortunately, that most valuable asset was stolen from us, under our noses, by the Nova Scotian interests. There are still opportunities for the same procedure in conjunction with knowledgeable marketers in the USA.

Minister, on the subject of yielding to pressures to ship unprocessed

fish I have first hand knowledge of the fact when factory freezer trawlers (FFTs) are freezing round fish for future export, a very high percentage of the export shipment is in the form of very, very small fish.

As much as 25 to 30 per cent of the turbot and yellowtails being exported are described by informed participants as being the ‘size of the palm of your hand’. I can assure you this continuing practice will spell the end of Turbot and Yellowtail fisheries.

I was asked recently to attend a meeting of two groups directly involved in the fishery and requested by them to publicly speak on the subject because according to them ‘unless action is taken to stop the practice, both species will not last beyond a three or four years at the most’.

Minister, I have spent 50 years in the industry on a day-to-day basis in contact with every aspect from harvesting to processing to sales and marketing and I can assure your government is on the road to destruction of the fishing industry in NL, if we continue to export round fish.

It will spread like wildfire in no time.

There are no easy answers because our NL have been abandoned by both levels of government on every front, long before your arrival on the scene. You have a difficult task but there is real need to bring a halt to the present direction and have a long hard look at a establishing a Judicial Inquiry to examine every aspect of the industry and on the basis of its conclusions and recommendations,  plan for a future fishery based on a fully recovered resource.

There is a dire need to stop the overfishing on inshore stocks in both the ‘food’ and sentinel fisheries, if it is to stop the overfishing by foreigners on the 18 stocks of migrating fish NAFO is supposed to be responsible for offshore. At present time NAFO is completely out of control.

One last point I intended to bring to your attention. NAFO executive,

with the blessing of DFO and others, continues to hold its annual meetings as far away from the scene where NAFO fishing nations do the most damage and that is NL. We are the only province impacted by NAFO mismanagement.

Those stocks migrate inside and many even spawn inside the 200-mile zone. NAFO officials will continue to hold their annual meeting as far away as possible so, Minister, I would suggest the

NL government officially extend an invitation to NAFO to hold its 2013 annual meeting in St. John’s.

Best regards

Gus Etchegary,

Fisheries Crisis Alliance

Organizations: DFO, South Coast, Fishery Products

Geographic location: NL, Canada, Spain Newfoundland Danvers, Massachusetts USA

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