A needed fishing industry discussion
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.