A needed fish­ing in­dus­try dis­cus­sion

Tri-County Vanguard - - Op-ed -

While 2018 is gone, there were many event an­nounce­ments took place dur­ing the year.

The two I per­son­ally felt got lit­tle ac­tion from the N.S. fish­ing in­dus­try are the right whale lob­ster clo­sures and the an­nounce­ment of ‘N.S. Pro­vin­cial Gov’t No Longer lssu­ing New Seafood Buy­ers/Pro­ces­sors Li­cences,’ – an in­def­i­nite freeze on new en­trants.

My old trusty dic­tionary states the mean­ing of “freeze” as an act of hold­ing or be­ing held at a fixed level or in a fixed state. Over my 50plus years in this fish­ing in­dus­try, I re­call the hum­ble be­gin­nings of to­day’s ma­jor buy­ers/pro­ces­sors as sto­ries of start­ing with a single wheel­bar­row or per­haps N.S.’s largest buyer/pro­ces­sor to­day sell­ing from a half ton truck on the Bed­ford High­way. Or yes, here in my home­town, of an in­de­pen­dent, fam­ily, fish­er­men writ­ing an l.O.U. as a loan. To­day that buyer/pro­ces­sor be­ing one of the ma­jor largest play­ers in the area. How­ever, l feel there are more of these suc­cess sto­ries right across N.S., so l ask you, the reader, to in­sert that suc­cess story here.

These suc­cess sto­ries have cre­ated the eco­nomic en­gine that keeps our coastal com­mu­ni­ties go­ing. Other sec­tors such as boat build­ing, truck­ing, lob­ster trap build­ing, sup­ply ser­vices, car and truck deal­er­ships are the di­rect re­sult of this fish­ing in­dus­try and its suc­cess sto­ries.

At this point, I re­call 1975’s lob­ster task force re­port, which had the N.S. lob­ster fish­ery doomed for fail­ure and the 1977 ju­ris­dic­tional bound­ary de­ci­sion at the Hague (200-mile limit). ln the 1990s came the cod mora­to­rium. As a re­sult, we wit­nessed the single largest trans­for­ma­tion from pro­ces­sor/buyer – of fin fish to lob­sters (shell­fish, crabs, shrimp) – hold­ing fa­cil­i­ties, etc. to the present day. We also wit­nessed the in­tro­duc­tion of un­der-de­vel­oped species. So it begs the ques­tion now, if this freeze on li­cences pol­icy was in place in that pe­riod of time, could/ would the N.S. fish­ing in­dus­try have evolved to where it is to­day?

Be­fore I move on from the buy­ers/pro­ces­sors sec­tor and their suc­cess sto­ries, we need to rec­og­nize this en­trepreneur­ship spirit or for­mula is alive and well in N.S. I would be the first to stand on my feet to ap­plaud their suc­cess.

N.S. fish­ing groups and as­so­ci­a­tions gave lit­tle re­sponse to the an­nounce­ment when the present N.S. gov­ern­ment froze new en­trants of buy­ers/pro­ces­sors. I could per­haps pro­vide an easy ex­cuse for the ma­jor fish­ing groups – maybe they are over­whelmed with the large load of is­sues fac­ing them and they are try­ing to reach a coN.S.eN.S.us to find the time to ad­dress this work­load.

How­ever, reg­u­la­tors can and will do this to the fish­ing groups. I call it the shot gun ap­proach. Some pol­icy an­nounce­ments will sim­ply get through. That can and will have a harm­ful ef­fect on this in­dus­try. My con­struc­tive crit­i­cism here is to change from al­ways be­ing re-ac­tive to more pro-ac­tive and a de­vel­op­ment of mech­a­nism that draws at­ten­tion to poorly de­signed poli­cies that can af­fect N.S. fish­ing in­dus­try in a neg­a­tive way. The fish­ing as­so­ci­a­tions should be more vig­i­lant.

ln our tech­nol­ogy-sat­u­rated world, it’s get­ting harder to pay at­ten­tion for the fish­ing groups. The grass­roots (mem­ber­ship) and in­de­pen­dent fish­ers must have con­fi­dence that their is­sues are and will be ad­dressed. Progress re­ports on is­sues should be eas­ier to fol­low on ma­jor fish­ing group web­sites.

The way our democ­racy works: all po­lit­i­cal par­ties will re­spond to noise, whether it is the local Cham­ber of Com­merce, mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment, pro­vin­cial MLAs. They are all elected or put in place to rep­re­sent the peo­ple of N.S.

All politi­cians should be good lis­ten­ers. Ev­ery politi­cian sets their agenda on what the ci­ti­zen­ship’s con­cerns are.

Op­po­si­tion par­ties will al­ways look for weak­nesses in the gov­ern­ing party and build their ques­tions based on in­for­ma­tion on the pre­sen­ta­tions of lob­by­ists to their re­spec­tive cau­cuses. Sim­ply put, the squeaky wheel gets the most grease.

I came to this point to show the slip­page on this ma­jor is­sue of a freeze on buyer/pro­ces­sor li­cences. With­out any ap­plied pres­sure, with­out any noise, no ac­tion will hap­pen.

My con­clu­sion is that the N.S. seafood in­dus­try, as they pre­pare for the fu­ture, they must make more noise on this is­sue. The present buy­ers/pro­ces­sors can feel se­cure in their present po­si­tion. With ex­am­ples like Canada’s fi­nance min­is­ter re­lease in 2018 call­ing for a new strat­egy to boost Canada’s over­seas ex­ports by 50 per cent by 2025; de­mands for N.S. seafoods from Asia, China and the EU and per­haps the strong­est point, an­other 2 bil­lion more peo­ple on this planet in the next 20 years, in­di­cates a greater de­mand for our seafood prod­ucts.

How­ever, with the chal­lenges of to­day on our fish­ing fu­ture such as ris­ing sea lev­els, tem­per­a­ture, the move­ment of species, fish­ing pat­terns all look­ing for the Goldilock Zone ... it will take all of N.S.’s local knowl­edge to ad­dress the is­sues of present day from buy­ers/pro­ces­sor and yes, new en­trants.

The world needs Canada. Canada needs the N.S. seafood in­dus­try with its imag­i­na­tion and in­no­va­tion. From look­ing over our past his­tory of 50 years, a sim­ple ques­tion is why? Why take away a pol­icy that has worked per­fectly and throw it away? Or freeze new en­trants of seafood buy­ers/pro­ces­sors’s li­cences to ad­dress the is­sues that N.S. seafood fish­ing in­dus­try will face to­day, to­mor­row and on our hori­zon?

I truly look for­ward to Nova Sco­tians’ and the fish­ing in­dus­try’s com­ments.

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