Friday, July 29, 2011

How can Conservatives investigate DFO on one end of the country, and not the other?

The following letter asking for an investigatation into the management practices of DFO was forwarded recently to the interim Auditor General of Canada.

July 18, 2011

John Weirsema,
FCA Interim Auditor General of Canada
Office of the Auditor General of Canada
240 Sparks StreetOttawa, Ontario
K1A 0G6

Dear Mr. Weirsema,

I am writing to formally request that the office of the Auditor General of Canada launch an investigation into the management practices of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in relation to commercial groundfish stocks off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Despite 19 years of commercial fishing moratoria, groundfish stocks such as northern cod and flatfish have failed to recover.

In fact, some stocks are in worse condition than they were in the early 1990s when the commercial fisheries were first closed.


What role, if any, have DFO’s management practices played in the failure of groundfish stocks to rejuvenate?

In 1997, the office of the Auditor General of Canada investigated DFO with regard to a sustainable fisheries framework for Atlantic groundfish, with one of the key recommendations being the institution of a national policy for sustainable fisheries.

Such a national policy was never instituted.

As the 1997 report highlighted: “Although background papers have been prepared, a national fisheries policy and an action plan have yet to be developed.”

In 2000, the Auditor General’s Office carried out a follow-up report, again highlighting the absence of a national fisheries policy.

Indeed, such a national policy has never been adopted.

In 2005, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans compiled a report: “Northern Cod: A Failure of Canadian Fisheries Management.”

The report took DFO to task for failing to recognize “mismanagement” as one of the reasons for the stock collapse.

The report also questioned why a recovery plan had not been drawn up, describing DFO’s lack of long-term vision as “astonishing.”

“The Committee has a clear impression that, from DFO’s perspective, cod is no longer a priority,” read the 2005 standing committee report.

The absence of a national fisheries policy has led to inconsistencies in management approaches across Canada.

The federal Conservative government called an inquiry in 2009 into the decline of sockeye salmon on British Columbia’s Fraser River.

How can the federal government investigate management policies in one end of the country and not the other?

How can there be such a discrepancy from coast to coast to coast?

The northern cod fishery closed in 1992 and has witnessed no recovery for almost 20 years.

Again, the question is why?

It is time to revisit the issue.

Fin Donnelly, Fisheries critic for the federal New Democrats, warns “our oceans are on the brink of unprecedented mass extinction.”

Newfoundland and Labradors population has declined by 80,000 people since the closure of the northern cod fishery.

There are no signs of stock recovery.

We cannot afford to wait another 20 years.

I implore the Office of the Auditor General of Canada to investigate the management practices of DFO in relation to commercial groundfish stocks off Newfoundland and Labrador.


Ryan Cleary,
MP, St. John's South-Mount Pearl

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