B.C. fish­ing in­dus­try up­set over pend­ing an­nounce­ment of ma­rine pro­tec­tion area

Medicine Hat News - - NATION -

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to ban all fish­ing in some ma­rine pro­tected ar­eas off Canada’s west coast threat­ens the liveli­hoods of hun­dreds of Canadians and ig­nores years of dis­cus­sions with the fish­ing in­dus­try, says the coun­try’s largest com­mer­cial fish­er­men’s as­so­ci­a­tion.

Jim McIsaac, the Pa­cific vice-pres­i­dent of the Cana­dian In­de­pen­dent Fish Har­vesters’ Fed­er­a­tion, said that an an­tic­i­pated ma­rine-con­ser­va­tion an­nounce­ment by the Fish­eries De­part­ment will hurt jobs and raise seafood prices.

“We’ve been sold down the road,” McIsaac said on Wed­nes­day, call­ing the move both ex­treme and un­nec­es­sary.

“We’re more than dis­ap­pointed,” he added. “These are peo­ple’s lives. These are peo­ple’s liveli­hoods.”

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment is ex­pected to an­nounce on Thurs­day a 2,000square-kilo­me­tre ma­rine con­ser­va­tion area com­pris­ing three sites be­tween Van­cou­ver Is­land and the ar­chi­pel­ago of Haida Gwaii aimed at pro­tect­ing the re­gion’s sen­si­tive glass-sponge reefs.

The B.C. coast is be­lieved to be one of the last re­main­ing homes for glasssponge reefs, de­scribed by the en­vi­ron­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion Liv­ing Oceans as frag­ile relics of pre­his­toric times that were thought to have gone ex­tinct be­fore their re­dis­cov­ery in the late 1980s.

Fish­eries Min­is­ter Do­minic LeBlanc said in Van­cou­ver on Wed­nes­day that the gov­ern­ment does not be­lieve im­pos­ing fish­ing re­stric­tions to pro­tect the ma­rine ecosys­tem is an ei­ther/or propo­si­tion, adding that it is pos­si­ble to do so while bal­anc­ing the in­ter­ests of in­dus­try.

“Peo­ple should be care­ful be­fore they pull the fire alarm and tell Canadians that, as the gov­ern­ment meets the com­mit­ments that we made to Canadians, it will nec­es­sar­ily have these dev­as­tat­ing eco­nomic im­pacts,” LeBlanc said.

“Ob­vi­ously, that’s not a view we have and we’ll con­tinue to work with the in­dus­try to make sure that’s the case.”

LeBlanc made the com­ments af­ter an­nounc­ing the gov­ern­ment’s of­fi­cial en­dorse­ment of a ma­rine con­ser­va­tion agree­ment be­tween fed­eral, pro­vin­cial and First Na­tions gov­ern­ments for Canada’s Pa­cific coast.

The gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to meet­ing its tar­get of pro­tect­ing five per cent of Canada’s ma­rine ecosys­tem by the end of the year, and 10 per cent by 2020, he added.

Only about 1.3 per cent of Canada’s ocean ter­ri­tory was pro­tected when the fed­eral Lib­er­als were elected in late 2015.

McIsaac said the gov­ern­ment’s con­ser­va­tion an­nounce­ment will have a “cas­cad­ing ef­fect” that could hurt work­ers, in­clud­ing those who crew the more than 50 boats that fish in the area and those in­volved in pro­cess­ing the catch.

The fed­er­a­tion had pro­posed a plan to pro­tect about 1,000 square kilo­me­tres of seabed but still al­low fish­ing in the sur­round­ing ar­eas and in the wa­ter above the glass-sponge reefs, he said.

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