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Friday, February 17, 2006

Lloyola Hearn Gets Tough on Foriegn Overfishing

The following is a very interesting article that appeard in this morning's National Post. Read on.

Tories to get tough on fish turf

Portugal, Spain can expect Canadian patrols, sanctions, Minister says

John Ivison, National Post
Published: Friday, February 17, 2006

OTTAWA - The new Conservative government has indicated it is going to get tough with European boats that fish illegally in the waters off Newfoundland -- a move that could set Canada on course to reignite the "turbot war" of the 1990s with Spain.

Loyola Hearn, the new Fisheries Minister, identified Spain and Portugal as countries that "constantly break the rules" and said Canada has to take on the responsibility of policing the waters beyond its 200-mile territorial boundary. Actions could include closing our ports to vessels from nations that violate the regulations, he said.

"It's about time we stood up for ourselves and our people ... We sometimes have been real weak when it comes to international dealings, but it's like the guy in the bar -- you can talk your way out of a lot of issues, but sooner or later, if someone is persisting, the coat comes off, and that might happen."

While Canada can issue citations to boats guilty of overfishing, they amount to no more than "a warning ticket on the highway," Mr. Hearn said. "These people go home and the offending nation is supposed to deal with that. In most cases, the boat is back out again as fast as they can get here."

The soft spoken Mr. Hearn is an unlikely Captain Canada, the name given to his fellow Newfoundlander, Brian Tobin.

As Fisheries Minister in the mid-1990s, he held a news conference on a rented barge in New York, opposite the headquarters of the United Nations, to lament the plight of "the last lonely, unloved, unattractive little turbot clinging by its fingernails to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland."

That incident -- dismissed as by Mr. Hearn as "a media show ... that got us nowhere" -- came at the height of the "turbot war," in which a Spanish trawler was boarded and seized in international waters by Canadian authorities on the charge of breaching fishing agreements.
But the new Fisheries Minister is determined to bring to an end decades of overfishing on the Grand Banks and Flemish Cap, off Newfoundland.

He has been the driving force behind the Conservative government's plan to "exercise custodial management" over international waters beyond the 200-mile limit that marks Canadian territory. He said he is determined that Canada will make up for more than a decade of what he characterizes as inaction on the file. "It's a pet peeve of mine and we have some ideas of how we move on this. Hopefully, it doesn't come down to High Noon, but somewhere along the line it might have to. There is no future in going the way we are going."

Numerous parliamentary committees have complained over the years that the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization, which is meant to enforce fishing quotas, is toothless and in urgent need of reform. However, Mr. Hearn said it is too late to reform NAFO, and Canada has to take on its responsibilities with the backing of other nations that oppose overfishing.

"Are there ways of doing something about it? Yes. Are we moving that way? Yes. Are we going to let this thing go on? No. So it's a matter of trying to do it and do it right, so we don't just get someone saying, 'Hearn's a great guy for sending out a warship' but in the meantime, overfishing is twice as bad as before we did it," he said.

Mr. Hearn's call for urgent action is backed by third-party research that suggests some ground fish are being fished to the point of extinction. The World Wildlife Fund last year criticized Portugal, Spain, Russia and Canada for fishing at levels that made the recovery of stocks impossible.

However, the more muscular approach is likely to have its critics. Mr. Hearn recalled that when the Department of Foreign Affairs was asked for its input before the standing committee on fisheries and oceans, it recommended taking no action because to do so might disrupt international relations. "Seeing that I came from an area where most of my friends that I played basketball or hockey with were now packing meat in Brooks, Alta., for eight bucks an hour or whatever they get, I wasn't overly happy with that presentation."

The Portuguese embassy issued a statement yesterday that said it shared Canada's concerns about overfishing and is "respectful of all its commitments" under NAFO. Portugal signed a pact with Canada last year promising to monitor the catches of its trawlers. The Spanish embassy said the matter falls under the jurisdiction of the European Union.

Mr. Hearn has suggested one of the first steps Canada could take is to close Newfoundland's ports to the boats of transgressor nations. With increases in the cost of fuel, many boats now fish off the Grand Banks, offload a catch on the Rock and then return for another. If this ceased to become an option, it could eat into profit margins of foreign boats.

Canada gave Denmark an ultimatum last year, threatening to close its ports to Danish ships unless they stopped overfishing for shrimp.


WJM said...

Mr. Hearn has suggested one of the first steps Canada could take is to close Newfoundland's ports to the boats of transgressor nations.

Just like Robert Thibault did four years ago?

Patriot said...

Another interesting comment out of the federal government yesterday:

While visiting CFB Shearwater in Nova Scotia the new Defence Minister was being pushed by provincial politician and press about stationing a proposed 650 person rapid response team at the base. His response was that this wasn't going to happen because new contingents had been promised to 5 Wing Goose (among other bases) and unless someone could prove why that wouldn't work then it was going to happen that way.

It doesn't mean the troops are definately there yet but is sure looks good for Goose with that kind of talk.