An edited version of the following commentary was aired on CBC’s Fisheries Broadcast on Monday, April 11th.
My name is Ryan Cleary and I’m calling from St. John’s.
I wish to respond to statements made on the Fisheries Broadcast earlier this week by fisherman Ray Wimbleton.
With a federal election in full swing, Ray questioned why the fishery has barely been mentioned.
Ray asked why not a single federal candidate is talking about rural Newfoundland’s broken engine — the fishing industry.
I spoke to Ray many times when I hosted VOCM NightLine.
Ray talked about the fishery and how it was dying around him.
Ray talked about how young Newfoundlanders were turning their backs on the sea, because there’s no living in it — no future in it.
Ray sees himself as the last of a breed.
I told Ray to have hope — things can change.
And I believe that.
I asked one question before agreeing to represent the New Democrats in St. John’s South-Mount Pearl.
I asked whether the NDP would support a judicial inquiry into the Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries.
The New Democrats said yes.
Then I said yes.
The fishery must be rebuilt.
But we can’t rebuild without all the facts: on science, enforcement, quotas and — most importantly — management.
The same DFO management that ran groundfish stocks into commercial extinction manages the fishery today.
What’s happened has been described as “managed annihilation.”
Which offends me as a Newfoundlander.
I take it personally.
There may be no fishery left by the time Canada/EU free-trade deals are done.
The same foreign countries that cleaned out the Grand Banks could be granted access to pick the bones clean.
Pick the bones clean.
We need an inquiry to provide a baseline of information so we can start making decisions and moving forward.
We have to get our act together now so we’ll have a future after oil.
This week I met fisherman Paul Critch, whose 60-foot boat was tied up at Prosser’s Rock boat basin in St. John’s harbour.
Paul said he named his boat the Chelsea and Emily, after his two daughters.
Paul is a 5th generation fisherman.
Upon the birth of his second daughter, Paul said his father said “Thank God.”
“Thank God” it’s not a boy.
A grandson would have to go into the fishery.
And who wants that.
This is what we’ve come to.
We have hit rock bottom.
The time to rebuild is now.