A fish­eries MOU, but for whom?

The Compass - - OPINION - BY RAY JOHN­SON

Left out

Mem­bers of the Com­mu­nity Link­ages were pleased to see the mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing ( MOU) be­tween the pro­vin­cial govern­ment, the Fish Food and Al­lied Work­ers’ (FFAW) and the As­so­ci­a­tion of Seafood Pro­duc­ers ( ASP), but many peo­ple have expressed con­cerns, both pub­licly and pri­vately, to our com­mit­tee, that com­mu­ni­ties are not in­volved in the process as stake­hold­ers.

Our com­mit­tee is echo­ing these con­cerns to­day.

Ru­ral needs are key

Our prov­ince’s ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties have a heavy eco­nomic and so­cial re­liance on the fish­ery, and there­fore have a di­rect in­ter­est in the out­come of this re­struc­tur­ing process.

Ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties rep­re­sent the largest stake­hold­ers in the en­tire fish­ery in­dus­try, yet they are be­ing for­got­ten and ig­nored.

The min­is­ter’s MOU news re­lease on July 15 makes it clear that cor­po­rate in­ter­ests are re­ceiv­ing the most at­ten­tion in the fish­ing re­newal strat­egy.

When our or­ga­ni­za­tion re­quested that the fish­ery strat­egy in­cor­po­rate all stake­hold­ers, the min­is­ter replied that the MOU is well rep­re­sented and ra­tion­al­iza­tion is key to the suc­cess of a re­struc­tur­ing pro­posal to the fed­eral govern­ment.

So, the ques­tion is, how did our govern­ment come to the con­clu­sion it should ex­clude con­sul­ta­tions with the peo­ple who will see the great­est im­pact of change, in favour of the fed­eral govern­ment, the FFAW and pri­vate cor­po­ra­tion par­tic­i­pa­tion?

Would our govern­ment like for us to as­sume that the mem­bers of the fish­ery re­newal strat­egy are mak­ing the poli­cies and de­ci­sions with our best in­ter­ests a pri­or­ity in their agenda? We surely think not! For ex­am­ple, af­ter dis­miss­ing the Fogo Is­land Co-op strat­egy — “com­mu­ni­ties and stake­hold­ers first” — the ASP’s Derek But­ler still sits at the MOU ta­ble. This con­tra­dicts the min­is­ter’s hope in the MOU.

A strong trend glob­ally is in de­vel­op­ing com­mu­nity-based fish­ery agree­ments and co-op­er­a­tive com­mu­nity strate­gies.

ACOA de­scribes co­op­er­a­tives as self-suf­fi­cient en­ter­prises that are run like busi­nesses by peo­ple as­so­ci­at­ing to­gether to achieve com­mon so­cio-eco­nomic goals, pro­duc­ing goods and ser­vices in the mar­ket econ­omy.

The fed­eral Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans also states that they en­cour­age the par­tic­i­pa­tion of non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions in ses­sions of fish­eries and field projects as an im­por­tant source of in­for­ma­tion, es­pe­cially for small-scale fish­ing com­mu­ni­ties.

They claim it brings de­tailed knowl­edge of lo­cal fish­ing prac­tices, po­lit­i­cal struc­tures and so­cial mo­ti­va­tion. Com­mu­nity Link­ages feel that the pro­vin­cial govern­ment should fol­low this ex­am­ple.

No voice

Yet our prov­ince is ne­glect­ing com­mu­nity stake­hold­ers in the devel­op­ment of such ini­tia­tives.

Fur­ther­more, we feel that keep­ing Derek But­ler and his as­so­ci­a­tion in the process has un­der­mined the le­git­i­macy and over­all in­tent of the MOU process.

It’s time our govern­ment re­viewed its en­dorse­ment of pri­vate stake­hold­ers in the MOU process. FFAW mem­bers should also ask them­selves some se­ri­ous ques­tions about their fu­ture in the fish­eries, es­pe­cially in re­gards to ra­tion­al­iza­tion and the fu­ture of their liveli­hoods aboard float­ing fish plants.

Time for real rep­re­sen­ta­tion

Our prov­ince needs a fish­eries coun­cil to pre­vent the joint ap­proach of govern­ment and pri­vate in­dus­try de­ter­min­ing the faith of our com­mu­ni­ties and econ­omy.

It should be manda­tory that the voices of the pub­lic, fish­ery work­ers, com­mu­ni­ties and stake­hold­ers be part of the vi­sion and suc­cess of our fish­eries fu­ture.

We are propos­ing a con­sor­tium among in­ter­ested par­ties to form a cit­i­zens’ coun­cil on fish­eries to de­velop com­mu­nity-based so­lu­tions for our fish­eries and to fos­ter our so­cial, cul­tural and eco­nomic sus­tain­abil­ity and re­liance on this in­dus­try.

The coun­cil would be rep­re­sen­ta­tive of non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­di­vid­ual stake­hold­ers, ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties and govern­ment.

The pur­pose would be to pro­mote a com­mu­nity-sup­ported fish­eries plan through pub­lic con­sul­ta­tions and di­a­logues with com­mu­ni­ties af­fected by fish­eries and ocean re­source poli­cies.

This would help en­sure and pro­mote strate­gic ini­tia­tives that fo­cus on com­mu­nity devel­op­ment, to en­sure that the broader fish­ing com­mu­nity has an ac­cu­rate and clear un­der­stand­ing of the is­sues. It will al­low com­mu­ni­ties to speak and make in­formed de­ci­sions re­gard­ing fish­ing and com­mu­nity in­ter­ests in New­found­land and Labrador.

Com­mu­nity as­sets

Both lev­els of govern­ment need to ac­knowl­edge that our fish­ing in­dus­tries are com­mu­nity as­sets, not cor­po­rate re­sources, and we look to govern­ment for lead­er­ship in turn­ing the tide to more sus­tain­able and lo­cally man­aged fish­eries.

I en­cour­age you to write your MHA, the min­is­ter of fish­eries and the premier of New­found­land and Labrador to ob­ject to the MOU process in its cur­rent struc­ture.

Ray John­son is the chair­man of the Com­mu­nity Link­ages Com­mit­tee. He can be reached at 709-584-3624, or by e-maiil at make­and­break@ hot­mail. com. Also visit the CLC web­site www.clc­cnl.ca

Ray John­son is the chair­man of the Com­mu­nity Link­ages Com­mit­tee.

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