‘From Fishing Boat to Ottawa’
Gordon Snow has earned the right to weigh in on the collapse of the fishing industry on the east coast of Canada, specifically in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Harbour Grace native has over 35 years of fisheries experience working with the Canadian government and private industry in resource management and harvesting through to marketing. He has also consulted with government and industry, and traveled to foreign fishing nations and international fish markets.
He has now distilled his considerable experience in a candid and thoughtful book, “From Fishing Boat to Ottawa: A Journey in the Fishing Industry.” An insider’s account of fisheries mismanagement, it serves as a cautionary tale that tackles head-on what went wrong and what can be done about it.
“The fishing industry is constantly changing,” Snow admits, “and managers in the public and private sectors have to manage for both today and tomorrow.”
In the first part of his book, the author provides information of a personal nature.
During the 1940s and 50s, when he was growing up in the Conception Bay town, it was, he recalls, “relatively prosperous and had most amenities.”
His family took part in the fishery, joining several other fisher-families yearly to establish a summer residence on Harbour Grace Island to be closer to the fishing grounds.
In 1960, Snow decided on a career change by writing an examination for a potential job with the federal government. One of the successful candidates, he was “ready to begin my career in fisheries, albeit different from the ancestral fishery that employed my grandfather and father.”
He worked at the provincial and federal levels, apart from a two-year stint with private industry.
By 1984, he was back at the Depart- ment of Fisheries and Oceans, where he worked until his retirement in 1995.
Not surprisingly, a lifetime of experience in the fishery had, he says, “helped to create definite opinions on the subject.”
In the second part of his book, Snow shares some of those “definite opinions” by reflecting on the future of the fishing industry.
Of particular interest to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians is the closure of the 2J3KL cod fishery on July 2, 1992, by then Minister of Fisheries and Oceans John Crosbie.
It was, Snow says, “the mos t profound announcement ever for the fishing industry.”
Both “the fishing culture and social environment” of the province and othe r a reas in Atlantic Canada were radically altered in one fell swoop.
“It is beyond comprehension,” Snow notes, “that such a large stock of fish could become overfished to such an extent.”
He adds that, “the demise of this cod stock did not happen overnight ... No other species offered such flexibility in harvesting and processing, but now it was no longer available.”
Snow is no doom- and- gloom prophet; his writing is both descriptive and prescriptive.
“Newfoundland and Labrador is in an enviable position for further development of a viable and sustainable fishing industry,” he suggests.
A new era in sustainable fisheries is on the horizon, but only if what Snow calls “fundamental changes” are introduced “to allow the transformation to occur.”
He believes that “optimism can still prevail providing the leadership in all facets of the industry has the capability to lead the way ... Therefore, it appears prudent for the province to have a framework in place for long-term renewable resources.”
The province, he continues, is in a position to play a key role “without deeming to usurp authority away from DFO, the processors or the fishermen.” The purpose is not to save a way of life, but to make a better life for participants in the fishery.
The provincial Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture can take the lead in crafting a practical framework for instituting change. Some of Snow’s recom- mendations follow.
• Develop an advocacy label to indicate to the world that fish resources around the province are sustainable and harvested in a responsible manner.
• Work with those concerned to develop a new body to replace the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization that only gives responsibility and access to adjacent states.
• Make provision for the establishment of a new company to manage offshore harvesting.
• It is inevitable that the processing industry has to undergo some consolidation — that could mean mergers, buyouts, joint ventures or purchases.
• The provincial Minister can establish a desk at arm’s length to handle mergers, purchases, retirements and buyouts among fishing enterprises.
Only time will tell whether or not forward-thinking leaders are committed to taking the initiative in enacting desperately needed change.
Snow’s self-published book is printed by FriesenPress of Victoria, BC, and is available online, and at Chapters and Costco in St. John’s. sporting his cap as a watermark, a reluctant scholar wearing a dunce cone was the watermark. But, in either case, the sheets were labelled foolscap.
“Still at it, Harry,” says Dearest Duck, appearing as unexpectedly as a ghost at a banquet. “Still fooling away your time.”
“Be gone,” I say inside my noggin, my chops split with a pearly smile. Yet, b’ys, here’s the rub. In excess of five hundred years have passed since Billy chased and caught the goose, shaved a finetipped quill, dipped it in ink and scribbled lines still recited in this age.
I’d like to think that come five hundred years a line or two of mine — scrawled on foolscap, or keyed-in to the heartless void of cyberspace — will be remembered. I wish … “Harry…,” “Yes, my Dearest Duck, I know… more fool I.”
Thank you for reading.
Students at Ascension Collegiate recently completed a pair of murals focusing on the promotion of good mental health and drug and alcohol abuse awareness. A $5,000 Eastern Health grant was used to complete the project. Pictured at right are: back (l-r) — Tracey Sharpe-Smith from Eastern Health, Kelsey Smith, Caitlin Pike, McKayla Peddle, Lauren Bowring, Courtney Caravan, art teacher David Trainor, Rebecca Gosse, Trinity-Conception RCMP community policing officer Const. John Clarke, and Chelsea Pike; front (l-r) — teacher Michelle Cleary-Haire (who applied for the grant), April Squires, teacher Lisa Courtney from the school’s social justice committee, Keisha Noonan, and Leah Clarke.