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Monday, February 15, 2010

PR by Minister Not a Solution to Overfishing

The Government of Canada has proven, once again, just how ineffectual and useless the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO)truly is.

On Sunday Federal Fisheries Minister, Gail Shea, announced the closing of all Canadian ports to fishing vessels from Greenland and the Faroe Islands because of continued refusal on the part of both nations to respect fishing quotas in the North Atlantic, off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Ports were previously closed for both those nations in 2004 however the ban was lifted by the Harper government in 2008.

The shrimp quota set by NAFO in the area is 334 tonnes however both nations have decided to allow their fishing fleets to catch up to 10 times that amount and with limited monitoring, there is no way of truly knowing how much they might be catching even beyond that amount.

This step by Ottawa is seen in Newfoundland and Labrador as futile gesture since many of the vessels affected are likely to continue fishing the area and visiting the nearby French islands of St. Pierre & Miquelon to access supplies and fuel.

Those islands sit just off the Newfoundland coast but fall under the jurisdiction of France.

For many years fishermen in Atlantic Canada have demanded that the Canadian government and NAFO put a stop to overfishing and illegal practices on the offshore. Those demands continue to fallon deaf ears as Ottawa increasingly hands over more control of the offshore to NAFO member nations (many of which are a part of the EU).

Rather than protecting the marine environment which is so critical to the survival of coastal communities in Atlantic Canada, Ottawa continues to oversee the destruction of fish stocks in favour of improving trade relationships with the Countries involved.

NAFO has traditionally been the toothless tiger of fisheries management outside Canada’s 200 mile economic limit. While NAFO regulators often turn a blind eye to illegal and harmful fishing practices by its members or simply impose token penalties for infractions, the government of Canada, in the face of strong opposition, pushed through changes to NAFO regulations late last year that open the door for NAFO to be granted additional authority inside Canadian waters as well as outside them.

Recent reports by Fisheries officials claim the number of fisheries infractions by foreign vessels have diminished in recent years however locals insist that the lights of fishing boats can be seen offshore at night and appear, as one individual put it, as a “city of lights on the water”.

Many people dispute the position taken by federal officials believing instead that high levels of illegal fishing continue and that the low number of infractions reported are the result of Canada’s handing over many of its patrol duties to vessels from NAFO member countries, the same countries participating in the damaging fishing practices.

As fish stocks continue to be decimated, the closing of Canadian ports to these two small nations comes across to locals as little more than a public relations exercise.

Ottawa may be pretending to be tough for the home audience but in reality little is being done. Instead of sending a strong message to the EU, and other nations involved, through trade sanctions and vessel seizures, Ottawa continues to push hard on its plans for a free trade agreement with the EU in spite of their fishing practices and a recently adopted EU ban on Canadian seal products.

With full scale free trade talks underway on an agreement that is believed to be of benefit of Central and Eastern Canadian exporters, it’s highly unlikely that any real action will be taken to protect the imperilled fish stocks upon which many of the smaller Atlantic Provinces depend.


Anonymous said...

I cannot comment. I'm still spitting mad at this joke of a government

Anonymous said...

This is an aside. It isn't difficult to understand why the Harper Government wants to sell off the CBC to private broadcasters. This country will be in a sorry mess if CBC is sold. We will not ever get unbiased reports again. Please protest this attempt to let CBC go.

Anonymous said...

hope your feeling well Myles. Long time no write.Anyway hope to see you back soon.