Prov­ince needs to stand up to Ot­tawa, says Etchegary

The Compass - - EDITORIAL OPINION - Editor’s note: the fol­low­ing let­ter was writ­ten to Premier Kathy Dun­derdale, and for­warded to The Com­pass and other me­dia.

Two weeks ago we re­ceived no­tice from a bu­reau­crat within the Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans in Ot­tawa that ma­jor re­duc­tions in the depart­ment’s ser­vices were to be im­ple­mented that would neg­a­tively im­pact fish­eries man­age­ment.

Fur­ther­more, those pro­jected re­duc­tions would re­sult in fed­eral sci­ence ca­pa­bil­ity in this re­gion be­ing gut­ted, and as a re­sult any hope of an all-im­por­tant stock re­build­ing pro­gram be­ing im­ple­mented would now be al­most im­pos­si­ble.

In­cluded in the bu­reau­cratic leak was the dis­tress­ing and mind­bog­gling news that most es­sen­tial an­nual stock as­sess­ments by sci­en­tists, which had been in place since this prov­ince en­tered Con­fed­er­a­tion, was be­ing ex­tended from three to five-year in­ter­vals.

We im­me­di­ately checked with a vet­eran fed­eral sci­en­tist whose re­ac­tion was swift and re­flected the re­sponse from many other sci­en­tists, in­side and out­side the Depart­ment of Fish­eries.

He emailed the fol­low­ing: “It’s un­be­liev­able se­nior peo­ple would take such ret­ro­gres­sive ac­tion. It is to­tally ir­re­spon­si­ble and will have pro­found im­pli­ca­tions that will be­come ap­par­ent in a rel­a­tively short time.”

This alarm­ing de­ci­sion by DFO bu­reau­crats, brought about through pres­sure from the fed­eral fi­nance min­is­ter, prompted us to con­tact DFO’S di­rec­tor of re­source man­age­ment, Dawn Pearcy. The 20-minute minute dis­cus­sion with the di­rec­tor did not shed any light what­so­ever on the ra­tio­nale be­hind what is ob­vi­ously such an ir­re­spon­si­ble act, that will fur­ther re­duce the sci­ence ca­pa­bil­ity of DFO in the NL Re­gion.

With­out re­li­able fish­ery sci­ence there is not much hope of re­build­ing our ma­jor fish­eries, all of which are in de­cline, ac­cord­ing to re­cent pub­lic an­nounce­ments made by sci­en­tists at DFO and NAFO.

On Oct. 14, an­other con­firmed re­port from DFO in­di­cated fur­ther se­vere re­duc­tion in a num­ber of DFO ser­vices, in­clud­ing still more pro­gram re­duc­tions in sci­ence, aqua­cul­ture and other de­part­ments of DFO. Spe­cific ref­er­ence is made to a num­ber of DFO per­son­nel who will lose their em­ploy­ment when still more fish­ery pro­grams and ser­vices are re­duced.

With re­gard to the provin­cial govern­ment’s in­ten­tions of ra­tio­nal­iza­tion of the fish­ing in­dus­try, this ac­tion has been nec­es­sary even be­fore the 1992 mora­to­rium.

Don’t you un­der­stand that, be­cause of the de­clin­ing state of all fish stocks, “ra­tio­nal­iza­tion” will be a re­quired, repet­i­tive and pe­ri­odic ac­tion by gov­ern­ments.

It will be a con­tin­u­ing process un­til there is noth­ing left to ra­tio­nal­ize, or our govern­ment lead­ers stand up to the Govern­ment of Canada and de­mand they ful­fill the re­spon­si­bil­ity they un­der­took when this prov­ince en­tered Con- fed­er­a­tion.

That is to con­serve and sus­tain­ably man­age our fish­eries in a healthy state. Con­ser­va­tion and sound fish­ery man­age­ment are, by far, the most im­por­tant com­po­nents for in­dus­try suc­cess as has been dis­played for many years by Nor­way, Ice­land and other ad­vanced fish­ing na­tions.

The ques­tion, there­fore, is: When will our present govern­ment pro­vide the lead­er­ship to bring all New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans to­gether and co­op­er­ate in a con­sol­i­dated ef­fort to con­front Ot­tawa, halt those de­struc­tive fish­eries man­age­ment de­ci­sions now be­ing taken by DFO bu­reau­crats and se­ri­ously at­tack the prob­lem of re­build­ing our re­new­able fish­eries to en­able ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties to sur­vive af­ter non­re­new­able oil re­serves have been ex­hausted? Or, will our present govern­ment re­main on the side­lines and silently ob­serve our this in­dus­try fade into obliv­ion.

In essence what we are try­ing des­per­ately to con­vey is that soon there will be noth­ing left to ra­tio­nal­ize. The skills to sus­tain a fish­ery are dwin­dling and this cre­ates more op­por­tu­nity for for­eign and Nova Sco­tian in­ter­ven­tion. In fact, they could own it all in 30 years or less.

Is that what we want? Will that be the Dun­derdale govern­ment legacy? Not Muskrat Falls or oil and gas, but a failed fish­ery ini­tia­tive that brought an end to ru­ral New­found­land and Labrador.

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