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FISH-NL wants independent, external review of DFO

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador is calling for an independent, external review of the management and science capabilities of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, specifically in relation to fish stocks off Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador is calling for an independent, external review of the management and science capabilities of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, specifically in relation to fish stocks off Newfoundland and Labrador.

Tough times for the province’s fish harvesters continue to get tougher, says Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) president Ryan Cleary.

The group is calling for an independent, external review of the management and science capabilities of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in relation to the reported dramatic decline of key stocks off Newfoundland and Labrador.

“The picture right now for our harvesters is bleaker than the moratorium,” Cleary said in a news release Friday.

“When cod stocks collapsed in the early 1990s harvesters could turn to other species, but crab, shrimp and south coast cod are apparently in simultaneous free fall, if not outright collapse, and the common theme is DFO management.”

FISH-NL vice president Richard Gillett, a harvester from Twillingate, meanwhile, says there’s also concern over caplin stocks.

“If there’s no crab or shrimp or caplin, then there’s nowhere to turn. If crab alone goes then the moratorium will look like a church picnic compared to what we’ll be facing,” he said.

According to the news release, FISH-NL plans to formally request that the Liberal government assemble a team of experts from outside the country to evaluate DFO’s management and science capabilities, specifically in relation to fish stocks off Newfoundland and Labrador, which have an international component.  

“Decades of cuts by consecutive federal governments have left DFO a shadow of its former self. As scientists retired they weren’t replaced, and stock assessments often weren’t carried out because of the decrepit state of the Canadian Coast Guard fleet,” the release states.

“Further, the findings of scientists, as with this year’s crab stock report, are too often at odds with what fish harvesters are reporting on the water,” it continues.

“DFO also appears prepared to contract out its constitutional responsibilities for fisheries management, as outlined under the Terms of Union with Canada.” 

FISH-NL also claims in the release the FFAW attempted to introduce a five-cent-per-pound levy on lobster last year to cover the union’s management of that fishery without telling fish harvesters.

The release suggests – citing a statement attributed to the FFAW – that the levy, which was to be paid by harvesters and was voted down by fish-processing companies, was proposed because the union is now doing most of the work once done by DFO, without any financial help or in-kind support from the processing sector.

“DFO must be held accountable for fisheries management. Period. End of story,” Cleary said.

“Too many fisheries have failed over too many years, while fisheries elsewhere in the world have collapsed and rebounded even stronger than they were before.”

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