Province launches fisheries research program
Skinner and Roberts like program
The government of Newfoundland and Labrador began a new era in the province’s traditional fishery on July 2 in announcing a $ 14 million investment which will significantly expand long-term science capabilities for the province.
This marks the first time in the province’s history that the provincial government will solely fund and deploy a fisheries science vessel. In addition, the provincial government will invest in a suite of new fisheries science research programs, including the establishment of a new Centre for Fisheries Ecosystem Research. The province will work with Memorial University and its Fisheries and Marine Institute to develop and implement the research program.
One of the great advantages of the new research program is that the province will no longer rely exclusively upon research of others to guide the fishery into the future.
The provincial Minister of Fisheries, the Honourable Clyde Jackman said, “ The fishery is a very important industry to the future of the province and is critically important to costal communities. Better fisheries management through good fisheries science is an opportunity to improve and sustain this industry.”
Premier Williams, in making the major announcement, said, “ Today, we once again take control of our destiny by investing in our own fisheries research and development. Our government recognizes the importance of research and development, and today we take it to the next level by investing in the industry that has sustained us as a people for more than 500 years. This investment will help provide the knowledge, capacity and expertise necessary to ensure a vibrant, sustainable fishery well into the future.”
To ensure that sustainable fishery of the future, Premier Williams announced that Dr. George Rose, a Newfoundlander and renowned fisheries scientist, will be the new director of the Centre for Fisheries Ecosystem Research.
Dr. Rose is an internationallyknow fisheries scientist and is widely considered an international authority on Atlantic cod. He worked for eight years as a Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientist and has spent the past 15 years with the Marine Institute.
Dr. Rose said that it’s very important that the province have its own independent research capacity independent of the federal government or mainland interests. He noted that people who have had very little contact with Newfoundland fish harvesters have always been the ones to publish studies on Northern cod.
Dr. Rose said, “ It’s about time that we did our own research into different species in the Newfoundland fishery and this is what we are starting today. This is a major commitment from the Williams’ government, and it is a key turning point in the history of the Newfoundland traditional fishery.”
Dr. Rose said that he has two main objectives in his new role as director of the research centre.
“My role, first and foremost, is to continue research that I have been involved with here in the province in the past 25 years or more. Another very important thing I want to do is to bring in new people on the professional, scientific, and technical levels and, more importantly, at the student level for the future.
“ We need to develop the next generation of fisheries scientists here who can continue this important work well into the future,” Dr. Rose said.
Dr. Rose will have some help in this task as the announcement will fund a total of 14 positions for search, technology and support staff, In addition, up to 20 fisheries science graduate students will be engaged in the research on an annual basis.
Mildred Skinner, a FFAW official who represents fish harvesters from Rencontre East to Burgeo, said that the research program is a positive step going forward in the Newfoundland fishery. However, Skinner has some concerns about the new research program.
She said, “Although I’m looking at this as a appositive step, one important thing about all of this is that the provincial government and the federal government has to work hand in to analyze the research done by both groups.
“ In addition, federal researchers do not always listen to fish harvesters in their research projects, and I hope this will change big-time with the provincial government program. Any science program needs to have the serious input of fish harvesters, and we need to be an active part of any research project.”
Dr. Rose emphasized that the traditional fish harvesters will be a part of the provincial research projects.
He said, “ Our intention is to work as closely as possible with harvesters and industry at large in solving the problems. This is an immense task, and it’s not something that can be solved just by science or by industry or any other group acting alone.
“ It’s going to take a combined effort - we really need to reinvent ourselves and to do that we need all stakeholders in the fishery on the same team.”
Jeff Roberts, who represents fish harvesters in the Hermitage area said that one of the points that he likes about the provincial program is that research projects will be aimed at inshore or bay stocks and not just offshore stocks which was usually the case in the past.
Roberts said, “ This new provincial research program bodes well for the future of the fishery. One of the things we’d like to see is if bay stocks of cod or other species are stocks on their own or part of larger offshore stocks. Hopefully this, and other key questions, can be looked into later with this new program.”
In answer to Roberts’ concern, the government announcement made on July 2 stated that $ 200,000 has been committed for a highly sophisticated inshore fisheries research vessel, the ‘ RV Gecho 11’. This vessel will enable research in coastal bays with unique habitats, inshore spawning and nursery habitats. It will also enable the province to better monitor inshore and offshore species migration.
Dr. Rose concluded, “ We have the richest marine ecosystem in the world which is one of the most valuable assets that we have. All modern fisheries are based on scientific research, and this new program will have significant meaning for the Newfoundland fishery of the future.”