Why Isn’t DFO Managing the Deplorable State of the St. Pierre Bank Fishery?

Recently, there was a Zoom meeting between representatives of the FFAW, the offshore operators and others with respect to the deplorable state of the St. Pierre Bank fishery (3PS).

That cod resource, which had a quota of 70,100 metric tonnes (MTs) when Canada extended fisheries jurisdiction to 200 miles in 1978, is now at 1,300 tonnes.

Several fishing operators from the mainland, trawlers from Newfoundland and Labrador and many inshore operators have been fishing there since 1978. The foreigners, except St. Pierre, no longer fished there after the 200-mile limit came into effect. Canada/Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has been the sole manager of that resource for the last 42 years.

Why has DFO mismanaged that resource to such a degree that responsible fishery management would have shut that 3PS fishery down completely before it was completely destroyed and implemented a rebuilding strategy? Why, for 42 years, did DFO stand by and observe a quota of 70,100 MTs of cod dwindle to 1,330 MTs?

The 3PS fisheries should be closed down until it’s restored to an acceptable level determined by DFO scientists. Trawlers should be banned and instead conduct its fishery in the Gulf, the Scotian Shelf or elsewhere.

Inshore fishermen with a recorded history of fishing the St. Pierre Bank should be compensated until it’s officially reopened. They have been deprived of a living by Canadian mismanagement of 3PS.

What was the outcome of the Zoom meeting, which did not include a DFO scientist?

All representatives there made it clear they want their share of the pie or more and have decided the 1,300-tonne quota should remain for 2022 until the DFO minister from B.C. decides the best solution for the future.

One thing is certain — any recommendation from genuine DFO scientists will be ignored, as has been the case since we joined Confederation.

I was Burin plant manager for 10 years during the 1950/60s and as a matter of daily management routine, checked the volume, size and quality of the fish landed by inshore and offshore fishermen.

At the same time, two DFO officers were daily checking the fish being landed. They recorded the volume landed, the individual size of the fish, gender, age, gut content and then checked the trawler log to determine the area fished and the mesh size. All that information was Telexed to DFO scientists and was an important tool in DFO management during those years.

Those scientists made solid recommendations to DFO management based on this information and detailed data sourced from research ships spending months at sea. Those recommendations were totally ignored by DFO and The International Commission for the Northwest Atlantic (ICNAF).

As usual, politically-motivated policies will supersede common sense and that all-important 3PS fishery will remain at that disgracefully low level or disappear simply because DFO and irresponsible users of that common property resource continue to ignore the fundamental requirement in every renewable resource. Under no circumstances can management permit the amount of the actual tonnage of resource harvested to exceed the scientifically confirmed spawned population to replace that harvest. If practiced, it will result in resource sustainability.

There has been a crying need for Icelandic and Norwegian-style management to be implemented in the Canadian East Coast fishery since we became a province of Canada. Now is the time to answer that need and allow fishermen in that area to make a living.

Where are the federal politicians? Where is the government of Newfoundland and Labrador?


Gus Etchegary
Chairman, Fishery Community Alliance
St. John’s, N.L.

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