Be­ing blind­sided by sci­ence

Crab fish­ers taken aback by DFO’s lat­est de­tails on crab data

The Packet (Clarenville) - - Front page - BY PAUL HERRIDGE THE SOUTH­ERN GAZETTE [email protected]­

Al­fred Fitzpa­trick says it seems the opin­ions of fish har­vesters aren’t car­ry­ing much weight with the sci­ence branch of the Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans (DFO) as of late.

“We al­ways thought we had a pretty good re­la­tion­ship with DFO Sci­ence – when it come to crab any­ways, cod is an­other story,” said the Gar­nish-based fish­er­men, who rep­re­sents har­vesters from the Burin Penin­sula in crab fish­ing ar­eas 10 and 11 on the Fish, Food and Al­lied Work­ers (FFAW-Uni­for) union’s in­shore coun­cil.

“It seems like now it’s chang­ing. It’s not a good work­ing re­la­tion­ship, not as good any­way, I’ll say.”

In a news re­lease on Nov. 16, FFAW pres­i­dent Keith Sul­li­van said the union be­lieves the depart­ment of­ten views fish har­vesters as an “af­ter­thought.”

The FFAW backed up the claim with an ex­am­ple from ear­lier in the week, ex­plain­ing snow crab fleet chairs from around the prov­ince were in St. John’s for meet­ings with DFO on Nov. 13 to talk about snow crab sci­ence and man­age­ment.

Har­vesters were in the process of re­turn­ing home less than 24 hours later when the FFAW says it was told a brief­ing would be held the fol­low­ing day on a new sci­ence re­port that out­lined ma­jor con­cerns about the fu­ture of the snow crab fish­ery.

The union con­tends the re­port had not been brought up dur­ing the meet­ings.

“It seems like DFO just wants to check boxes when it comes to con­sul­ta­tion,” Tony Doyle, a crab har­vester from Bay de Verde and in­shore coun­cil vi­cepres­i­dent, said in the re­lease. “They have not demon­strated that they value the con­cerns of fish har­vesters what­so­ever.”

That sen­ti­ment – that DFO doesn’t take fish­er­men’s in­put se­ri­ously – is one Ron­ald Patey, a har­vester from En­glee on the North­ern Penin­sula, said he also agrees with.

“It seems like to me that every­body got their mind made up be­fore you goes (to the con­sul­ta­tions) any­way,” he said.

Patey said the in­for­ma­tion pre­sented by DFO Sci­ence of­ten seems to be in­ac­cu­rate, cit­ing re­cent re­search on capelin and cod as dif­fer­ing from what har­vesters have seen on the wa­ter as ex­am­ples. It makes it dif­fi­cult for fish­er­men, he said.

“There’s no way that you can make a plan in the fish­ery right now from one year to the next,” he said.

Fitzpa­trick, who said in his opin­ion the ad­just­ment in at­ti­tude within the sci­ence branch to­wards har­vesters seems to have co­in­cided with a “chang­ing of the guard” in staff, noted crab in NAFO Divi­sion 3Ps on the prov­ince’s south coast as an­other ex­am­ple of an in­ac­cu­rate re­flec­tion of what fish­er­men have wit­nessed.

Fitzpa­trick said in­for­ma­tion from DFO pointed to the species be­ing “pretty much gone” in the area, but sci­ence has been sur­prised by the show­ings.

“I mean, jeez, they never fell from the sky,” Fitzpa­trick says. “I mean, they had to be there some­where. It’s just that they never picked up on ‘em. I mean fish­er­men was telling ‘em they didn’t think things was as bad as what sci­ence was say­ing it was.”

He con­curred the un­cer­tainty is hard for har­vesters.

“You can’t make plans on any­thing for the next year be­cause you don’t know what way things is go­ing,” he said. “You might leave a meet­ing think­ing things are OK or think­ing you might take a lit­tle re­duc­tion or some­thing, but all of a sud­den you’re blind­sided.”

DFO re­sponse

“Our ob­jec­tive is al­ways to en­sure we pro­vide the best pos­si­ble sci­en­tific ad­vice to Cana­di­ans,” DFO ac­knowl­edged in an emailed re­sponse to a re­quest for com­ment about the claims in the FFAW re­lease.

“New sci­ence from DFO has in­di­cated fish­ing has be­come a fac­tor in the de­cline of the snow crab stock,” the state­ment con­tin­ued. “Last week, this new sci­ence was raised at a meet­ing with the FFAW about the new pre­cau­tion­ary ap­proach for snow crab.

“This week, DFO is host­ing stake­holder meet­ings about the new Pre­cau­tion­ary Ap­proach (PA) for snow crab. DFO Sci­ence will at­tend these meet­ings and will present the sci­ence re­lated to the PA as well as the new sci­ence on the stock.”


Al­fred Fitzpa­trick

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