Fish­ery needs long term plan­ning

The Southern Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

The New­found­land and Labrador (At­lantic) fish­ery has been turned up­side down and is spin­ning on its head.

Last fall’s bust in the global econ­omy has af­fected all in­dus­tries and com­mu­ni­ties in ‘de­vel­oped’ na­tions around the world, and the fish­ery is not im­mune.

The au­to­mo­bile in­dus­try is not the ‘only’ in­dus­try in Canada but lis­ten to any news­cast, flip through any news­pa­per or hear the de­bates on the floor of the House of Com­mons in Ottawa and it’s the pri­mary in­dus­try cur­rently on the tip of every­one’s tongue.

The fish­ery on all fronts in this prov­ince is be­ing im­pacted – it started with this year’s seal har­vest, the an­nual spring crab fish­ery, the lob­ster fish­ery and now the shrimp fish­ery.

Hun­dreds, per­haps thou­sands, of in­shore fish­er­men and even more fish plant work­ers are slip­ping through the cracks of the global re­ces­sion.

Premier Danny Wil­liams vows fish­ery work­ers will not be want­ing for ‘bread on their ta­bles’ this year; and Fisheries and Oceans Min­is­ter Gail Shea has an­nounced a $65 mil­lion lob­ster re­lief pro­gram – how­ever, only $15 mil­lion is ac­tu­ally go­ing to as­sist fish­er­men in all five east­ern prov­inces.

The FFAW and fish­er­men claim this is not enough and gov­ern­ments, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment in par­tic­u­lar, do not re­al­ize the se­ri­ous­ness of the state of the in­dus­try over­all.

A stronger Cana­dian dol­lar and weak­en­ing mar­kets are all hav­ing an im­pact on the fish­ing in­dus­try as a whole.

Peo­ple in this coun­try and be­yond have lost their jobs, their homes, and fam­i­lies and just don’t have the money to spend any­more.

New­found­land and Labrador has al­ways had a cush­ion of six months to a year, due to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, be­fore the im­pact of hap­pen­ings else­where oc­cur in this prov­ince. Those tragic losses ex­pe­ri­enced in the U.S., and in On­tario and Al­berta’s job mar­kets are now fil­ter­ing down to here.

The fish­ery, which has been the main­stay of this prov­ince’s econ­omy for hun­dreds of years, has fallen into a cri­sis sit­u­a­tion just as the au­to­mo­bile in­dus­try has; the U.S. hous­ing mar­ket has; the oil in­dus­try has (on a lesser scale).

Cana­dian and U.S. gov­ern­ments are throw­ing bil­lions of dol­lars at the au­to­mo­bile in­dus­try to help com­pa­nies and in­di­vid­u­als ride out this re­ces­sion. Fish­ery work­ers have the same needs and should be el­i­gi­ble for the same type of as­sis­tance.

It was the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s poor man­age­ment strat­egy of the fish­ery that fos­tered the raw ma­te­rial cri­sis of the 90s; it’s now the global re­ces­sion that is forc­ing mar­kets to dis­ap­pear.

Gov­ern­ments will have get to­gether and wrap their heads around a long term plan for the fish­ing in­dus­try, to lessen and per­haps re­duce the re­cur­rence of a cri­sis/boom cy­cle that the in­dus­try has be­come a vic­tim of, too many times.

Ge­orge Macvicar

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