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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Can Atlantic Canada's Fishing Industry Learn from its Oil Industry?

I don’t believe I’m telling anyone something they don’t already know when I say that there has been nothing but problems with the fishing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador since the province joined confederation.

After joining Canada, the Province handed over control of the industry to the federal government who swiftly placed DFO in charge of its mismanagement. Under their mismanagement and with the constant meddling of federal politicians from one end of the Country to the other, stocks have collapsed, plants have closed and entire communities have disappeared over the past few decades.

As we sit today, there are calls to place some species on the endangered list, an act that would serve to prevent Canadian fishers from utilizing stocks but have no impact on foreign fleets plying Atlantic waters. Fish plants continue to close and nobody seems to know exactly how many fish are out there. Basically the industry itself is racing to become exactly its management has been for years, non-existent. Where will it all end?

There have been calls from the Province begging the federal government to forget its agreements with NAFO and enact unilateral custodial management outside the 200 mile economic zone. So far those cries have fallen on deaf ears. Not surprising really when you consider that for years Ottawa has traded fishing rights to foreign fleets like a 10 years old trades hockey cards. Besides, in reality, what good would custodial management really do when there are not enough ships and aircraft available to enforce it?

Some have come forward with the idea of doing away with DFO and introducing joint management of the industry by both the federal and Provincial governments. A novel idea and one that might just catch some ears on Ottawa, after all, if nothing else, allowing the Province to have an equal say in management would at least ensure that all the problems could no longer be blamed solely on the feds. That might just sell up on the Hill.

I mean something has to be done right? It’s clear to anyone with half an eye and as deaf as a post that the status quo isn’t working. At least with both levels of government involved there may be some tempering of the approach to the science and management side of the equation and the political ambitions of each level may be tempered by the other.

These were some of the thoughts running through my mind the other day when, purely by chance, I decided to pick up a copy of the Province’s recently release discussion paper on “Developing an Energy Plan for Newfoundland and Labrador”. As I started to read through the pages (an interesting and worthwhile read by the way), I was struck nearly dumb by the content of page 22 and more specifically by the section on Offshore Regulation.

With my mind still twisting around fisheries issues, as soon as I started reading about the management structure for the Province’s offshore oil industry, I couldn’t help but see an opportunity and perhaps even a model for the fishing industry.

Here is an excerpt from that section:

“The Accord, (referring to the Atlantic Accord) recognizes “the equality of both governments in the management of the resource”, and the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) was established to mange offshore petroleum related activities on their behalf. Appointed jointly by both governments, the C-NLOPB was to serve as the single agency responsible for regulating offshore oil and gas exploration and development. The C-NLOPB issues and administers petroleum exploration and development rights, regulates offshore exploration, development and production, approves benefits and development plans, and administers the registry of petroleum interests in the offshore.”


The section continues with some further detail on certain specifics of the board’s function and division of responsibilities, etc, but doesn’t it sound just great?

What a novel concept, allowing the people who are most closely connected, who some might say “own” the resource, to actually have some control over how it is managed.

I especially like the quote, “the equality of both governments in management of the resource”, what a statement. I can only imagine how many federal politicians must have had their family jewels placed in a vice for them to agree to that statement, but our current Provincial Fisheries Minister might want to think about taking those vices out of the toolbox and heading back up to Ottawa.

Just imagine a C-NLOFB or Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Fisheries Board. A board that recognizes the equality of both governments in management of the resources, a board that manages stocks, sets quotas, issues licenses and enforces regulation.

A single agency responsible for regulation of the fishing industry. A single agency that gives the Province has an equal say with Ottawa. A single agency that would keep federal politicians from dealing away quotas in order to help textile or aircraft industries in their own Provinces. A single agency that would ensure some control by the very people who rely on those resources.

The C-NLOFB, I like the sound of it.

1 comment:

harry boland said...

Credit where credit is due...

...I am not as up on the particulars as you, but I do know that Coastal Fisherman have been screwed by the Feds.

This sounds like an excellent idea to me.