Un­der the radar

LIFO panel ap­pointed with lit­tle fan­fare from DFO

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - Barbara DeanSim­mons Barbara Dean-Sim­mons lives in Trin­ity Bay and has been re­port­ing on the fish­ery for over 30 years. She is a re­gional editor with TC Me­dia.

It was pe­cu­liar, out of the or­di­nary, re­ally.

Af­ter it se­lected the mem­bers of the Min­is­te­rial Ad­vi­sory Panel (MAP) to ex­am­ine the “Last In, First Out” (LIFO) pol­icy for north­ern shrimp, Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans (DFO) chose to do it qui­etly.

No me­dia ad­vi­sory on this one, or pub­lic an­nounce­ment via a press re­lease.

In­stead, the news about who was ap­pointed to the panel was buried on the DFO web­site; in the “fish­eries” sec­tion and not the “me­dia” sec­tion.

It’s only be­cause some­one sent me the link that I can tell you that the in­for­ma­tion on the panel is at: http://www.dfompo.gc.ca/fm-gp/peches-fish­eries/comm/shrimp-crevette/ shrimp-crevette-eng.htm

When I pressed the DFO for an an­swer on why the an­nounce­ment wasn’t made as a “me­dia ad­vi­sory” or press re­lease, their an­swer was that the in­for­ma­tion was de­liv­ered to the stake­hold­ers — specif­i­cally the mem­bers of the North­ern Shrimp Ad­vi­sory Panel — through an email.

I do know, as well, that that email did not go out to some mem­bers of the panel un­til very late on Fri­day af­ter­noon, April 15.

The Fish Food and Al­lied Work­ers (FFAW) did not get the email un­til around 4:30 p.m., prac­ti­cally as staff was clos­ing up the of­fice for the day.

It was a done deal by DFO, with no time for stake­hold­ers to di­gest or as­sess the in­for­ma­tion.

There is some­thing trou­bling about this, es­pe­cially when you con­sider that an­nounce­ments of this sort have been done very dif­fer­ently in the past.

In 2011, when DFO an­nounced the de­tails of an in­de­pen­dent re­view of North­ern Shrimp, it was done through a joint press re­lease/state­ment by DFO Min­is­ter Keith Ash­field; pro­vin­cial fish­eries min­is­ter Clyde Jack­man, and the then Re­gional Min­is­ter for NL, Peter Pe­nashue.

Why the same de­tail wasn’t of­fered through pub­lic an­nounce­ment this time around is ques­tion­able.

And while DFO as­serts that the panel is in­de­pen­dent and arms-length from the depart­ment, I can’t get past the fact that two of its mem­bers have very strong ties to DFO.

Wayne Fol­lett was DFO’s di­rec­tor gen­eral for New­found­land and Labrador for years, and Paul Sprout is a ca­reer civil ser­vant who held the same po­si­tion for DFO in Bri­tish Columbia.

While they cer­tainly have a wealth of in­for­ma­tion on fish­ing mat­ters, I have to won­der whether they may bring a cer­tain level of bias to this role.

One of them will, very likely, be chair of this com­mit­tee.

It would have been prefer­able if the min­is­ter could have in­cluded on the panel a few other peo­ple — and per­haps a re­tired jus­tice to over­see and chair the en­tire thing.

While it did a very poor job of an­nounc­ing the panel mem­ber­ship pub­licly, DFO has to en­sure that pub­lic is fully aware of each step of the rest of this process.

The stake­hold­ers in the north­ern shrimp is­sue are not solely the mem­bers of the North­ern Shrimp Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee (a com­mit­tee that in­cludes shrimp pro­ces­sors, off­shore fleets, pro­vin­cial and ter­ri­to­rial gov­ern­ments and the in­shore fleet via the FFAW).

The stake­hold­ers in­clude ev­ery com­mu­nity and town that has a shrimp pro­cess­ing op­er­a­tion within its bound­aries and is home port to an in­shore shrimp fish­ing crew.

The stake­hold­ers are ev­ery per­son that works in a com­mu­nity where the main source of new dol­lars is from the fish­ery — specif­i­cally the shrimp fish­ery.

They will all be im­pacted — good or bad — by the fi­nal re­port and rec­om­men­da­tions, and the min­is­ter’s de­ci­sion that will come from this process.

Sylvie La­pointe of the DFO says that from here on, the Min­is­te­rial Ad­vi­sory Panel will de­cide on dates and times for pub­lic hear­ings and will de­ter­mine how no­tices of meet­ings will be an­nounced.

I beg to dif­fer be­cause that’s sim­ply not suf­fi­cient.

DFO has an obli­ga­tion to en­sure the pub­lic at large is aware of ev­ery step of this process — from to dates and lo­ca­tions for the pub­lic meet­ings, to fi­nal re­port.

No­tices of meet­ings should still be de­liv­ered through DFO pub­lic ad­vi­sories, on its re­gional web­sites, via so­cial me­dia and through di­rect email to the towns and com­mu­ni­ties where the meet­ings will be held.

Mean­while, I of­fer up my email: Barb.Dean-Sim­mons@ tc.tc and ask that I be in­cluded on the list of me­dia con­tacts.

My aim is to at­tend some of those pub­lic meet­ings.

Be­yond that I can­not stress enough how im­por­tant it is for com­mu­nity lead­ers, busi­nesses and peo­ple in towns and com­mu­ni­ties around this province plan to do the same.

As I’ve said be­fore, and it bears re­peat­ing, the north­ern shrimp is­sue is not just a fish­ery is­sue. It is an eco­nomic is­sue. The even­tual de­ci­sion on DFO’s LIFO pol­icy could have a dras­tic im­pact on in­shore fish­ing fleets and ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

Just four peo­ple — Fol­lett and Sprout, along with for­mer pro­vin­cial fish­eries min­is­ter Trevor Tay­lor and an em­ploy­ment coun­sel­ing con­sul­tant, Barbara Crann — have the cru­cial task of de­cid­ing whether the in­shore fleet (cat­e­go­rized as ‘last in’ to the north­ern shrimp fish­ery) will be the ‘ first out’ if and when shrimp quo­tas are re­duced.

But thou­sands of other peo­ple have to speak up.

While some in­shore fish­ers will speak for them­selves dur­ing the panel hear­ings, they also need their lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties to speak with them and for them as well.

The fu­ture of ev­ery fish­ing com­mu­nity de­pends on your in­put.

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