Fish­eries min­is­ter op­ti­mistic

Sees role for depart­ment to aid ground­fish re­cov­ery

The Compass - - NEWS - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON ed­i­tor@cb­n­com­

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.


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