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Group continues to call for Ottawa confrontation over fisheries

Two weeks ago we received notice from a bureaucrat within DFO/Ottawa that major reductions in the Department of Fisheries services were to be implemented that would negatively impact on fisheries management.

Furthermore, those projected reductions would result in federal science capability in the Newfoundland and Labrador Region would be practically "gutted" and as a result any hope of an all-important stock rebuilding program being implemented would now be almost impossible.

Included in the bureaucratic leak was the distressing and mind-boggling news that most essential annual stock assessments by scientists, which had been in place since the province entered Confederation, was being extended to three to five year intervals.

We immediately checked with a veteran federal scientist whose reaction was swift and reflected the response from many other scientists inside and outside the Department of Fisheries.  

He emailed: "It's unbelievable senior people would take such retrogressive action. It is totally irresponsible and will have profound implications that will become apparent in a relatively short time."

This alarming decision by DFO bureaucrats, brought about through pressure from the federal finance minister, prompted us to contact DFO Director of Resource Management Dawn Pearcy. The twenty-minute discussion with the director did not shed any light whatever on the rationale behind what is obviously such an irresponsible act that will further reduce the science capability of DFO in the Newfoundland and Labrador Region. Without reliable fishery science there is not much hope of rebuilding our major fisheries, all of which are in decline according to recent public announcements made by scientists at DFO and NAFO.

Yesterday, Oct. 14 another confirmed report from DFO indicated further severe reduction in a number of DFO services, including still more program reductions in science, aquaculture and other departments of DFO. Specific reference is made to a number of DFO personnel who will lose their employment when still more fishery programs and services are reduced. 

With regard to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s announced intention of rationalization of the fishing industry, this action has been necessary even before the 1992 moratorium.

Don't you understand that, because of the declining state of all fish stocks, ‘rationalization’ will be a required, repetitive and periodic action by governments. It will be a continuing process until there is nothing left to ‘rationalize’ or our government leaders stand up to the Government of Canada and demand they fulfill the responsibility they undertook when Newfoundland and Labrador entered Confederation. That is to conserve and sustainably manage our fisheries in a healthy state.

Conservation and sound fishery management are, by far, the most important components for industry success as has been displayed for many years by Norway, Iceland and other advanced fishing nations. The question therefore is: When will our present government provide the leadership to bring all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians together and cooperate in a consolidated effort to confront Ottawa, halt those destructive fisheries management decisions now being taken by DFO bureaucrats and seriously attack the problem of rebuilding our renewable fisheries, to enable rural Newfoundland and Labrador to survive after non-renewable oil reserves have been exhausted? Or, will our present government remain on the sidelines and silently observe our 550-year-old basic industry fade into oblivion.

In essence, what we are trying desperately to convey is that soon there will be nothing left to rationalize. The skill sets to sustain a fishery are dwindling and this creates more opportunity for foreign and Nova Scotian intervention. In fact, they could own it all in 25 or 30 years or less.

Is that what we want? Will that be the Dunderdale government legacy? Not Muskrat Falls or oil and gas, but a failed fishery initiative that brought an end to rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Gus Etchegary, chairman

Fisheries Community Alliance


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