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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fisheries Minister Gambling Away Atlantic Fishery

"...instead of establishing "custodial management" beyond 200 miles as promised during the election, Minister Loyola Hearn will have done the exact opposite -- established a form of custodial management by NAFO and its members within Canada's 200-mile limit..."

The following appeared this week in the Ottawa Citizen. If after reading it you would like to make your feelings known to Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn, his email address is:


The piece was written by Bill Rowat, former deputy minister of Fisheries and Oceans who also served as NAFO commissioner and led Canada's negotiations during the 1995 'turbot war' with the European Union.

Scott Parsons is a former DFO assistant deputy minister.

Bob Applebaum who served as DFO's director-general, international, and helped negotiate the original NAFO Convention.

Earl Wiseman also served as DFO director-general, international, and co-ordinated Canada's ratification of the UN Fish Agreement.

Running out of fish

From the Ottawa Citizen
Published: Thursday, September 20, 2007
Special Report

International management of the northwest Atlantic fisheries outside 200 miles from shore has failed miserably.

The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) was created in the late 1970s to prevent overfishing outside the Canadian 200-mile zone of the major fish stocks, known as the straddling stocks, that migrate across the line that separates Canadian waters from the high seas outside.
These stocks, which have been the mainstay of Newfoundland's fishery for hundreds of years, have been severely overfished outside 200 miles, primarily by European Union fishing vessels. The stocks are, for the most part, under moratoria, as they have been for many years, and show no signs of potential recovery.

During the last federal election, the Conservative party, in response to these problems, promised in its platform to: "Extend the 200-mile limit to the edge of the Continental Shelf, the nose and tail of the Grand Banks, and the Flemish Cap in the North Atlantic and be prepared to exercise Canadian custodial management over this area."

It appears that in making this promise the Tories were not fully aware of the difficulties under international law of doing what they promised. In any event, once in office, the government changed course and decided, instead, to launch an initiative labeled "NAFO reform." This was understood to involve strengthening the NAFO Convention, but during the subsequent negotiations what has emerged is the draft of a new convention that would instead weaken it substantially.

To strengthen the NAFO Convention, two major additions were needed:

a) An effective enforcement mechanism on the water, one that does not depend solely on individual state action, to remove vessels that break the rules. The United Nations Fish Agreement (UNFA), originated by John Crosbie in the early 1990s and driven to conclusion by Brian Tobin in 1995 after the "turbot war" with Spain, and to which Canada, the European Union and virtually all NAFO members are now party, provides a model for such a mechanism.

b) A compulsory and binding dispute settlement procedure, which could prevent individual NAFO member states from allowing their vessels to overfish.

The new draft NAFO Convention, as it is emerging, includes neither. It does not provide for effective enforcement and, as regards dispute settlement, it provides only for a review system that cannot culminate in a legally binding ruling.

And the negotiations to date have resulted in proposed revisions that, far from strengthening NAFO, would instead substantially weaken it.

One such revision would, for the first time since the establishment of the Canadian 200-mile zone, open the door to NAFO fisheries management inside the Canadian 200-mile limit.

In response to criticisms by the authors of this piece and representatives of the fishing industry, the minister of fisheries now says that he will not allow this, but whether the government holds to this latest position remains to be seen. If it does not, then instead of establishing "custodial management" beyond 200 miles as promised during the election, Minister Loyola Hearn will have done the exact opposite -- established a form of custodial management by NAFO and its members within Canada's 200-mile limit.

The other major revision that would further weaken NAFO is a new provision to change the voting system in NAFO from the simple majority that now applies in the existing convention, to a two-thirds majority system. Ignoring criticism of this EU-supported proposal, the minister recently indicated that Canada will accept it.

But this change would make it more difficult, in the future, for Canada to obtain in NAFO decisions that restrict catches outside 200 miles to low limits, where such limits are recommended by the NAFO Scientific Council. Pressures will increase for trade-offs between the needs of conservation and the needs of the foreign fishing fleets. It would also make it more difficult for Canada to obtain decisions to continue Canada's current quota share percentages in the stocks managed by NAFO outside 200 miles.

The current approach to these negotiations flies in the face of the government's commitments during the 2006 election, and would tie Canada's hands for decades, without achieving any improvements in our ability to deal with the straddling stocks problem. Canada would be better off with the current NAFO Convention than it will be if the package of amendments now being proposed is adopted. It is true that NAFO should be reformed, but not this way.

It is not too late to fix this but the clock is ticking. The forces at work are trying to get this new NAFO Convention adopted at the NAFO meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, next week. This is an artificial deadline that works against Canada's interests.

Canada must refuse to agree to this package of amendments and insist that negotiators work toward a new, stronger NAFO Convention, rather than a weaker one.


Anonymous said...

I'll be giving Loyola a piece of my mind alright. What an A-hole!!!

Thanks for putting his email address up for everyone.

calvin said...

Canada is guilty of causing the near extinction of this once proud national resources.

A very sad sad day for resource management in this country and yet another reason for the continued debate of secession from Canada.

This shows nothing more then a complete disrespect for the enviroment and the people that once made thier living from this resource.

Patriot,if Newfoundlanders and labradorians could have even imagined this in 1949.Would confederation have even been considered an option to us.If this province is not given the same treatment under resource management as the other provinces ,i see no option but to opt out of this confederacy.

Newfoundland and Labrador is NOT a strip mine Canada,stop treating it as such.

Anonymous said...

It's very rare that I agree with you on anything.

But this post is absolutely right. Rowat and Parsons know what they are talking about, they have many years experience at DFO.

People have been telling Loyola for years that custodial management is a dead end, a false promise. But he keeps making it. The previous federal government threatened to switch from a NAFO regime to the UNFA regime. But unfortunately we replaced them with weak-kneed Loyola and his buddies.

Oh well. The fish are nearly gone anyway.

calvin said...

Oh well. The fish are nearly gone anyway.

September 20, 2007 10:03 PM

So what kind of compensation package is Ottawa willing to give the province for this.

1 , 2 Trillion were do you think they should start.

Anonymous said...

Here we are, four, almost five monthes later. And what has been done?

As usual, Nothing.