Our fu­ture is in the fish­ery

The Packet (Clarenville) - - Editorial -

The fish­ery is in the news again; prob­lems in the shrimp and crab, cod not com­ing back as fast as ex­pected, salmon stocks at an all­time low.

The one thing we don’t hear much about is the most im­por­tant fish in the ocean, the fer­til­izer that makes all things grow – the lowly capelin.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port this past win­ter from DFO, the capelin has not im­proved since 1990-91 when they were at an all-time low. In my opin­ion they were part of the rea­son for the col­lapse of the great north­ern cod; both col­lapsed at the same time.

In the late ‘80s Canada granted Rus­sia a deal to fish capelin up the Labrador coast, 50,000 tons a year for five years. The first year they caught 50,000 tons, the next year 1,000 tons – (they) caught all the capelin the first year. Hav­ing fished the Labrador coast for many years I knew the im­por­tance of capelin to cod and other species. Sad to say there was no cod to catch in Labrador two years be­fore the mora­to­rium, but no one picked up on this valu­able in­for­ma­tion.

The capelin not only is the main food for most fishes but is very im­por­tant to the birds that live on the ocean, the whales, and the seals. Be­cause of the ban of our seal prod­ucts by other coun­tries, we can­not con­trol the seals be­cause we have lit­tle or no mar­ket. Both the fed­eral and provin­cial gov­ern­ments did not think that seal prod­ucts were im­por­tant enough to the NL econ­omy to make sure they were in­cluded into the Euro­pean trade deal. The seal herds, be­cause they have been al­lowed to ex­plode, are hav­ing a tremen­dous ef­fect on the fish in our ocean, es­pe­cially the capelin, which is one of their main di­ets.

Although it’s been known capelin stocks have not im­proved since 1990-91, we still keep de­stroy­ing them ev­ery year and the pow­ers that con­trol the fish­ery can’t seem to un­der­stand how im­por­tant they are to the health of our ocean.

At the last provin­cial Lib­eral con­ven­tion there was a res­o­lu­tion put to the floor to ban the com­mer­cial capelin fish­ery un­til there was sci­ence done to see what the capelin stocks were. Sev­eral ex­pe­ri­enced fish­er­men sup­ported the res­o­lu­tion but it was de­feated by cabi­net min­is­ter Christopher Mitchel­more, who was able to garner enough sup­port to do so. If our own gov­ern­ment is against us, how can we win?

In the news this past win­ter, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment de­cided to spend a large sum of money to re­store the beach at Ship Har­bour so that capelin can come ashore and spawn. Our beaches are not the prob­lem – we have lots of them. Most of our capelin beaches do not have any capelin spawn­ing on them any­more. The prob­lem is that as soon as the capelin de­cided to come ashore to spawn the sein­ers will catch them first.

Fish­eries Min­is­ter Do­minic LeBlanc, when ques­tioned by a (CBC) Fish­eries Broad­cast re­porter about the state of the capelin fish­ery last year – where capelin were scarce and very small (same thing hap­pened to the cod be­fore the mora­to­rium) and plants only bought them be­cause there was noth­ing else – ad­mit­ted there was a prob­lem but made the state­ment, “although they were small they would die any­way, so it was bet­ter to catch them.”

If you kill them be­fore they re­pro­duce, where is the fu­ture for the capelin and the other species that de­pend on them?

Don Hutchens, pres­i­dent of the Sal­monid Coun­cil of New­found­land and Labrador, (wrote) a let­ter in the Tele­gram on Feb. 24, where he talks about the im­por­tance of capelin to the wild salmon and the need for re­cre­ation salmon an­glers and com­mer­cial cod and capelin fish­ers to stop the in­fight­ing and con­cen­trate their anger at Ot­tawa.

If you read this let­ter care­fully you will un­der­stand, as I do, our capelin has never been man­aged on its ben­e­fits to the ocean, but how much money we can squeeze out of this re­source. That is con­trary to all com­mon sense and the main rea­son our oceans are only pro­duc­ing a small per­cent­age of what they once did.

This let­ter was writ­ten be­fore DFO re­leased their re­port on capelin on March 12. I will be fol­low­ing up with my thoughts as a New­found­lan­der who cares about the fu­ture of the fish­ery and our prov­ince.

(Ret) Capt. Wil­fred Bartlett Green Bay South wil­f­bartlett@hot­mail.com

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