Fisheries minister optimistic
Sees role for department to aid groundfish recovery
The provincial fisheries minister is hopeful his department can do a lot of good in the years ahead through a new program to promote innovation within the sector.
In an interview last week with The Compass, Steve Crocker said the new Seafood Innovation and Transition Program would focus on technology and innovation, with particular attention paid to the recovery of groundfish stocks. The program has a budget of $2 million.
“We’re going to put a special lens on groundfish recovery and that lens will look at applications that come in for support in this program in harvesting technologies and also processing technologies, because we realize as we start to transition back into a groundfishery, there’s a lot of work to be done,” Crocker said.
“We understand government’s role in making sure that our harvesters have the necessary technology, or we test the necessary technologies, so that we can provide that grade-A product.”
Grants and subsidies were reduced in the budget for several divisions of the department, but Crocker said the new Seafood Innovation and Transition Program allows Fisheries and Aquaculture to reduce some administrative costs and fund more projects.
The budget also introduced some changes for processors, who will pay surcharge fees per tonne on various species, including snow crab and groundfish. Crocker called the fees modest and said government needed new ways to create revenue to support the industry. Processors now pay $5 per tonne snow crab and $0.50 per tonne of groundfish.
“The Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture puts a lot of money into keeping our department strong when it comes to fisheries inspections, and I guess the idea behind it was some cost recovery of the services that the province provides to our processors.”
In 2010, the provincial government then led by former premier Danny Williams launched an independent fisheries research centre in response to federal cuts to fisheries science in preceding years. The Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research operates under the umbrella of the Marine Institute.
With the new Liberal government in Ottawa making commitments to revitalizing the Department of Fisheries and Oceans science branch, Crocker is hope- ful Newfoundland and Labrador will benefit. It’s an issue he’s discussed with the province’s representative in cabinet, Bonavista-Burin-Trinity MP Judy Foote.
“I know Minister Foote is advocating in Ottawa very hard for the province,” Crocker said, adding he’s also brought up the matter with his federal counterpart, Hunter Tootoo. “It’s a federal responsibility, and we expect with the increases we’ve seen in the federal budget for fisheries science and the commitment to science overall, to see the federal government move back into their role when it comes to fisheries science in the province and throughout the country.”
Harvesters in Port de Grave are among those who hope to one day benefit from a revitalized groundfish stock.