ENGOs Don’t Deserve Stakeholder Status at Fisheries Management Tables

The primary objective of environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) is protect fish stocks — but that actually translates to them advocating for the end of fishing, or recommending total allowable catch (TAC) levels so low that fish harvesters and communities cannot survive and thrive.

When these organizations take the stance that all commercial fishing should be at the lowest possible level and in many recent examples, entirely closed, should they be permitted a seat at the federal stakeholder table?

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has its own science department, capable of providing scientific advice to the decision-makers. DFO has the responsibility of weighing the impacts of fisheries against the productivity of the stock, and to then determine quotas based on this information.

To me, and to the harvesters who sit around these stakeholder tables, it makes very little sense to give ENGOs stakeholder recognition when their sole purpose is to protect fish stocks.

ENGOs like Oceana and Oceans North way too often have extreme stances — calling for complete closures to the capelin fishery, closures of the mackerel fishery, major reductions to the Northern cod fishery and eliminating small stewardship fisheries like there should be for 3Pn4R (Northern Gulf) cod. These stances simply do not line-up with the science that shows modest commercial fisheries for capelin and cod have little to no impact on the trajectory of those stocks. Of course, these fisheries have major impacts for fish harvesters, plant workers and their communities.

Following the Northern cod collapse over 30 years ago, commercial fish harvesters got a bad reputation of not caring about protecting the future of fish stocks. The public thinks they want every fish in the ocean and don’t care if anything is left behind.

Nothing is further from the truth.

Fish harvesters today have made significant investments in their businesses. More than ever, they contribute and participate in science surveys, assessments and more. They are educated, highly trained and experienced stewards of the ocean, and their long-term sustainability is paramount to the continued value of their investment.

DFO will continue to set quotas based on the advice of their own science department and consultations with stakeholders. Fish harvesters will continue to be active stakeholder participants.

There is a time and place for ENGOs, and it’s not at the fisheries management table.

 

Jason Spingle
Secretary-Treasurer, FFAW-Unifor

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