The fu­ture of coastal com­mu­ni­ties


Dear edi­tor,

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

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