Our Fishery is in the Bantam Leagues Compared to Some

Despite what the chairperson of one of the recently appointed fisheries committees stated regarding the direction of future fisheries related to marketing, how in hell’s name can you have a market-driven industry, survival of fishing communities or indeed the industry itself when there are so few fish to catch?

To begin with, there is no real indication the huge, diversified fishery we delivered to Ottawa in 1949 is recovering and there is clear evidence DFO is abandoning its management responsibility and scientific capability in the Newfoundland and Labrador region which is essential to restoring this resource.

On top of that, both levels of elected governments are now for political reasons passing their areas of responsibility over to appointed committees to deal with major issues affecting the lives of thousands for years to come. Just another confirmation that the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery is politically driven from Ottawa and St. John’s and not by fishery science, research and stock assessment.

Our fishery today is in the bantam leagues compared to Norway, Iceland, Alaska and some other advanced fishing nations. Since the 1992 moratorium, our industry has missed out on the significant advances made in the technical and innovative fields in fisheries management, processing and marketing. These advances have resulted in increased earnings for fishermen and processing personnel and a stable and viable industry in those countries.

The withdrawal of DFO from its responsibility of fisheries management has created a vacancy now being filled by:

  • FFAW with DFO contracts to perform fishery management functions.
  • WWF, using scanty DFO fishery science assessments and making public statements on the state of the stocks such as on St. Pierre Bank cod and then proceeding to issue certificates to industry conveying the impression that the fishery is well managed by DFO. No wonder DFO officials at the White Hills agree with the WWF intervention in fisheries management. For DFO to permit this procedure is unacceptable to anyone with concern for the future.
  • CAPP, in collaboration with other similar groups up North and in the Maritimes, is practically dictating the allocation of resources. The emergence of this powerful group with its strong lobbyist position with governments and some of our elected MHAs and MPs is well on the way to attaining a major role in controlling our fisheries and must somehow be curbed otherwise it will have total control over this renewable common property resource.
  • The re-entry of former DFO employees to participate in politically appointed committees and making firm recommendations on the declining shell fisheries and processing and marketing procedures if and when the fish stocks recover plus increasing foreign involvement in every aspect of the fishery is reprehensible.

The forthcoming CETA with removal of MPRs to enable removal of tariffs and increased presence in EU markets will result in a major blow to our economy. Having participated, for half a century, in annual negotiations on prices for seafood products with major retail and food service consumers in the U.S. and Europe, you can be assured that any financial benefit gained from tariff removal will disappear with two to three years through the price negotiating process and any benefit will go to the customer.

Removal of MPRs with CETA will enable EU to remove the need for huge subsidies now paid to NAFO/EU fishing nations on the Grand Banks.

The Spanish fishing fleet alone received US$ 8-billion in the last five years from Brussels. Without that subsidy, the cost to the owners catching very scare fish on the Grand Banks is very expensive (capital and operational costs) and with 65 crewmen is prohibitive, to put it mildly.

With MPRs removed, you don’t have to be a fishery guru to realize there will not be any groundfish produced in N.L. in the future. The unprocessed fish from Newfoundland and Labrador will feed the idle EU processing plants from Poland to the Iberian Peninsula and reduce their need for any processed fish from here.

The $280 million from Ottawa designated to compensate fishery participants for losses is the amount Ottawa is prepared to pay so that central Canada can benefit from CETA. That amount is the proverbial ‘flea on the rump of an elephant’ in terms of compensation to the N.L. fishery participants.

Our fishery is a growing cesspool of corruption. The fishermen and processing personnel and the general public are completely unaware this once great renewable fishery is now strongly influenced by a powerful group who are now collaborating to reach their ultimate goal. That is the total control of the fishery adjacent to Newfoundland and Labrador and on the Grand Banks using trawlers and factory freezer trawlers to harvest and market without any processing in N.L.

There is little opposition. Unfortunately, those most affected are the persons who lost 25,000 jobs and the 80,000 people and who had to leave this province in 1992 to head for Alberta and elsewhere. They are not here to protest the mismanagement of our fisheries by DFO and DFA and our present 30-year-old generation are unaware of the enormous contribution our fisheries made prior to 1992 in harvesting, processing and marketing or the additional multiplier effect in the goods and services sector which was equivalent to 2.2 times the full-time direct jobs in the industry.

For the several years the Fishery Community Alliance have been pleading for an independent inquiry into our fisheries to enlighten our people what was transpiring and what had to be done to restore the resource. We made a special effort in recent years to persuade the Harris Centre to initiate and arrange that inquiry. It tried and in fact raised some money to fund such an inquiry.  However, it was not until recently we learned the reason the Harris Centre didn’t succeed. That was because DFO, our own Department of Fisheries, the FFAW and the powerful offshore lobby all stated they would not participate in any such inquiry. They and a few others knew that such an independent inquiry would expose this cesspool of corruption and the real cause of the continuing collapse of our fisheries and why there hasn’t been any effort by successive Canadian Governments to restore the groundfish resource.

We now have two brand new DFO and DFA Ministers. Neither with any background in our fishery and therefore very easily manipulated by those powerful groups. Those powerful groups are having a field day in reaching their objective.

Gus Etchegary
St. John’s

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