The closure of Canadian ports to Faroese and Greenland fishing vessels is going to be felt in at least two busy Conception Bay North harbours.
The mayor of Harbour Grace says the closure of Canadian ports to fishing vessels from the Faroe Islands and Greenland is a pointless gesture that will only hurt the local economy.
On Feb. 14, federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea announced the closure of Canadian ports to Greenland and the Faroe Islands until they stop exceeding shrimp allocations set by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, a move she said was necessary to protect shrimp stocks.
“ We have acted in good faith for several years to try to resolve this issue, to no avail,” Shea said. “Our government will continue to do whatever is necessary, under the law, to protect Canadian fishermen and the sustainability of the industry.”
But Harbour Grace Mayor Don Coombs said unless efforts are made to prevent overfishing in the first place, those ships are just going to take their catches - and the accompanying revenue - elsewhere.
“ Those people don’t feel they’re doing anything wrong. Their countries say it’s legal what they’re doing,” said Coombs. “ So they’re going to continue fishing. So it’s not like we’re stopping the fishing. We’re not stopping nothing. What we’re doing is stopping them coming in to port, Bay Roberts more than Harbour Grace. But when they come in, it’s fuel that they get from our local fuel people, Western Petroleum; they buy food from the Powell’s supermarket, the Dominions and Sobey’s. They visit our retail stores and go to our malls.”
About 80 people work part-time at Moorfrost, which is operated by Bay Roberts company Harbour International, and Coombs figures 18 people from Harbour Grace work in Bay Roberts unloading and servicing fishing vessels, and depend on the work to earn stamps for employment insurance.
“It was only the other week I was talking to a gentleman here from Harbour Grace ... and we were talking about the economy, and he was fighting and trying hard to get his stamps. He relies on these boats to come in.”
Coombs said it would be one thing if the Canadian government’s move stopped overfishing, but member countries can object to NAFO quotas and set their own, so what the vessels from the Faroe Islands and Greenland are doing isn’t illegal.
“All it’s done is make a statement. The federal government made a statement that they’re not going to come into shore. They’re going to go somewhere else,” he said. “ They’ll find somewhere else to go, and they’ll end up staying there.”