The future of coastal communities
The world is facing a food crisis, as one billion of the earth’s six billion people are malnourished and another one billion have insufficient food.
A significant part of this problem has been caused by the economic and social policies of corporations and governments who have bought up farm lands and turned food crops into cash crops and who, after dominating the fishing grounds of the world, have taken away and destroyed the traditional resources from millions of indigenous peoples.
This disenfranchisement from a subsisting way of life has created 25 million environmental refugees, permanently displaced people who now have to live in shanty towns with squalor, shattered spirits and no hope of future opportunity. With the present increasing value and demand of the world’s commodities, and an expected world population of nine billion by the year 2050, there will be even more pressure by governments and giant corporations to own the world’s resources.
Forests, hydrocarbons and minerals of the future will be in high demand for their economic value while that needed to feed the world’s expanding hungry population — water, farm land and ocean fisheries — will be most prized.
This global picture has been playing out, with no less personal devastation, on a smaller scale in this province since the beginning of a groundfish moratorium some 18 years ago. The demise of this province’s 500-year coastal fishing industry is a ‘canary in the coal mine’ for the abuse, greed and destruction of the world’s natural resources by global economic policies.
One hundred thousand of this province’s coastal people have been displaced from their way of life because 40,000 full-time fisheries jobs have been eliminated. In large part, this is the result of successive Canadian governments who have mismanaged fish resources and lacked any leadership in protecting or preserving one of the planet’s greatest natural renewable food sources.
A lessor part of the blame lies in the people who have not stood up, nor acted, together to protect the resource and its priceless future potential, while others whose actions, through selfishness and greed of economic gain, have blatantly destroyed stocks to the brink of survival and recovery.
No doubt the thousands of western tar sands jobs and government monies paid into fisheries programs and UI have cushioned the blow of the loss of the traditional way of life of coastal Newfoundland and Labrador, but the fact remains that thousands have had their families shattered, their spirits broken and their maritime way of life destroyed.
Hundreds of towns have been abandoned and hundreds more are just shells of their former self, and the future for many of those remaining on the coast will be the same.
The fishers’ loss of access to, and destruction of, their traditional fishing stocks (mainly at the hands of foreign fleets), and the federal flow of silence money to coastal people and their communities has secured their turning into modern day reservations. An indication of the lack of concern and disjointed management is glaringly evident by the present conflicting actions of our two governments over the spoils of the fishery.
On one side of the table our local government is touting an MOU, which purports diminished fish resources and its inevitable consequence of diminishing quotas, licences and plants for harvesters and coastal communities. On the other side of the table Ottawa is playing a federal/NAFO hand which implies the future belief of an increased fish resource which can be bartered, and given away to foreign countries.
This, shockingly, is indicated by the fact that Ottawa back-doored, against the vote of Parliament, an amendment which will allow Canada in future to invite foreign fleets inside our 200-mile limit, and their desire of an EU free trade agreement which will allow NAFO nations to buy our fishing companies, owning our licences and quota’s and giving them the right to fish in our coastal waters.
In conclusion, if the present seasonal philosophy of all sectors and governments continues as it is now of ‘what can I get out of the fishery,’ the fishery will eventually, and soon, disappear completely. Our beautiful coastal communities will disappear.
Changing this philosophy to one which asks instead, ‘what can I do for the fishery,’ by our leaders and our people is the only way we will be able stop the impeding doom of our fishery and the loss of our beautiful maritime way of life.
It is now up to us, the people of this province, to decide what our faith will be. Phil Earle Carbonear