Friday, July 1, 2011

Is ‘serial rapist’ over the top as a description for foreign fishing fleets?

Earlier this week, I published a blogpost that described European nations — the same nations the federal Conservative government is negotiating a secret free-trade agreement with — as having “fished out/raped” the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.

Indeed, I went so far as to call the EU countries “serial rapists.”

I received some criticism for my choice of language.

I first used the term "serial rapist" in a Sept. 3, 2006 column for the then-Independent newspaper, headlined A fishing story.

The column follows …


Attention Newfoundlanders out for a fight — this column’s for you.

You may have read a news piece this week about a Portuguese trawler cited for illegal fishing.

The Independent had the story nailed down but it broke in another media before we could get it to print.

Normally the story would have been dropped altogether at that point, but the article’s author missed a critical point.

Wait for it …

The Joana Princesa was caught with its pants down on Aug. 25 in the act of raping the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.

Rape is a harsh, harsh word that’s only used these days in American courts, but it’s a lot stronger than Canada’s word for the crime, sexual assault, and a much more fitting description for what foreigners do every day — decade in, decade out — to our precious fishing grounds.

Two Canadian inspectors aboard a zodiac snuck up on the trawler just as it was pulling in its nets.

The inspectors asked to be allowed on board, but the foreign crew ignored them. (No. 1 slap in the face for the fighting Newfoundlanders keeping count.)

One of the two determined inspectors then maneuvered the zodiac alongside the Princesa (not exactly a name befitting a rapist), while the second officer dared a high seas boarding.

The Portuguese wouldn’t lower a boarding ladder. (No. 2 slap in the face — the Canadian inspector could have been killed.)

Both inspectors eventually got on board to find the Portuguese had been fishing with a liner inside their net.

The foreign crew tried to get rid of the evidence, but they weren’t quick enough for our high seas lawmen.

A liner was once described to me as an onion bag — water and stunted plankton are about all that can get through.

Whatever fish the foreign crew was chasing that day didn’t stand a chance.

The Canadian inspectors then waited on board the foreign trawler for a day and a half until a European Union patrol vessel could steam to their coordinates and verify the citation.

In fact, the EU officers found the illegal liner was even smaller than the Canadians had reported — fish about the size of pens and pencils were about all that could swim through its mesh (oh, for the days of palm-sized catches).

In the end, the citation stuck. The Canadian inspectors were picked up by their mother ship and the EU patrol boat went on its way.

Before I get to what happened to the Portuguese rapist/trawler, I should mention a little about the vessel’s history.

The Princesa (there’s that sweet name again) was cited in December 2004 for illegally catching more than five tonnes of American plaice, a species under moratoria.

In that particular incident, Canadian inspectors boarded the Joana Princesa and discovered the unprocessed plaice on the ship’s deck.

The inspectors found even more fish when the net was pulled (like you would).

In 2003, the same vessel was issued three citations, including one for exceeding the five per cent bycatch limit for American plaice.

It was also charged in 2001 for using small-mesh gear.

In other words, the Portuguese trawler is a serial rapist.

So what became of the Princesa once the citation was issued and the authorities went on their way?

Wait for it …

Contacted in Brussels, Conservative Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn patted the Canadian government on the back for doing such a good job, which they are.

“We have a constant presence and have done a very good job in monitoring,” Hearn was quoted as saying.

He’s a firm believer NAFO can be reformed.

Forget the fact that Newfoundland politicians have been trying to do that since the day it was born.

Hearn will fail like the ministers before him.

Countries such as Norway have begun taking a heavier hand against Spanish and Portuguese vessels, known there as “trawler pirates.”

Dozens of fishing vessels have been arrested, but even that doesn’t seem to be working.

In July, the captain and owner of a Spanish trawler arrested for illegal fishing in Norwegian waters announced they had no intention of paying fines levied against them by local police — who don’t seem to be able to do much about it.

What’s clear is that countries adjacent to fish resources must have the power to enforce quotas and arrest ships.

Diplomacy is a joke — Loyola is a fool if he believes otherwise.

So what happened to the Joana Princesa once the authorities went on their way?

What was the repeat rapist allowed to do as soon as it was released on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland after being caught red-handed?

The answer is a perfect example of why custodial management is our only prayer and the Conservative government must be forced to live up to its commitments, come hell or high water.

The Princesa resumed fishing.


The above column was nominated for a 2006 Atlantic Journalism Award for commentary.


Dale Kirby said...

Your Conservative and, especially, Liberal opponents felt your candidacy and election was "over the top".

That they attack you in anonymous comments comes as no surprise.

They, my friend, may pound some sand.

Patrick said...

The issue is whether rape is an apt metaphor for foreign overfishing. While Kirby's comment ignores the issue in favour of some kind of partisan-based aside, I have to commend Cleary for printing criticism of his blog and for opening the debate.

I personally don't think rape is a good metaphor in this case, and I think Cleary is using an inflammatory rhetorical device on purpose to draw attention to his cause.

Thieves, robbers, bandits - I feel these words would all be more suitable. The word rape has too many connotations that simply don't apply to this issue, and I feel that this type of rhetorical grandstanding will only cheapen Cleary's stand on the very important issues of trade agreements with the EU and foreign overfishing.

Anonymous said...

I have and continue to be a supporter of Ryan's writings on matters affecting Newfoundland and Labrador. The substance of this piece is comprehensive and accurate I believe. However the use of the term " Serial rapist" detracts from and demeans the goal. It just does not fit and does a disservice to those who have suffered through physical rape.

Let's hope Ryan continues to use his substantial abilities to promote our postion in the confederacy. Let's also hope he surpresses what will from time to time be an understandable urge to sensationalize the message through the use of inappropriate words.

NL-ExPatriate said...

I prefer to call it an

International Tragedy of our commons at the hands of our Tyranny of the ON/QU majority national parties/govt.

As for the term Rape.
Maybe that is why the legalese changed the term to sexual assault because the term rape has too many other meanings and is too ambiguous and the term sexual assault is a much more descriptive and legal description of the crime.

I personally feel Serial Rapist is an appropriate description of how our continental shelf has been used and abused.

The 2013 United Nations Law of the Sea deadline to delineate the continental shelf is fast approaching and we have already seen or heard attempts by our Tyranny of the ON/QU Majority national parties govt attempt to allow foreigners to fish and patrol inside the inadequate 200 mile limit as well as talks of foregoing the Flemish Cap in the senate as not a part of the Continental shelf in the senate.

Yet we keep electing national party reps who will have no choose to toe their national party lines of doing what is in the best interest of the ON/QU majority if they and their party want to get re-elected.

All of the national parties will continue to use and abuse our continental shelf as a national trade and bartering chest to placate the ON/QU majority .

Noleen said...

Rape in this context is correct - and not as a metaphor.

The word "rape" has several different meanings than just that of a forced sexual act. It also means "to plunder (a place); despoil" and "to seize, take, or carry off by force" (from

"Rape" has been used in this context quite often: "industry has raped the land of its resources."

A "rapist" is someone who commits rape, not just someone who commits a forced sexual act, but also someone who plunders a place of its resources - like in this case.

Also "rape" is a plant in the mustard family that is used to make oil, and it's the skin and stalks of grapes after the juice has been extracted.

People's ignorance makes me sad for the state of this world.
I wish people would stop reading books by Jersey Shore idiots and Stephanie Myer and read something worthwhile!

Noleen said...

Oh I'd also like to state that it's sad that what has caught people's attention in this story is a word rather then the fact that Harper is trying to screw us over with secret EU deals that are bad for NL and bad for the country.
Nope, instead people are up in arms over a WORD.

Dr Earle said...

Ryan this in two parts, was aired yesterday.

We have lost our fishery because we have lost our souls.

In 1992 the Canadian government placed a moratorium on the Ground fishery of NL but not on foreigners fishing the same migrating fish on the N & T of the banks. The fed gov have cut shrimp quotas to our inshore fishers but not those of off shore foreign concerns, they have been cutting DFO science for some time on our fishery to where inadequate information and lack of knowledge on fish stocks is now the norm. The harper gov passed an amendment to the NAFO convention last year against the vote of parliament which will now allow Canada to invite foreigners to fish inside our 200 limit. Free trade talks are now under way which have NAFO nations talking about more by catches and quotas and transfers of fish quotas and fishing inside our 200 mile limit. The list goes on and on.

This begs the question is there a federal NL fisheries agenda which denies our fishers their right to our ocean’s resources while giving that same resource to foreign jobs and NAFO fishing fleets.

What are we in NL doing about it?

The premier said recently on the fisheries broadcast that our provincial government has no long term future plan for the fishery, there is no solution no ideas to address such a vision! This is puzzling when one considers that the province has future plans for development and exploration of our Oil fields , for mineral exploration and processing, for redressing the upper Churchill, future long term plans for Muskrat falls and the lower Churchill, and as well for other industries in our province. Plans for the future of our province in all areas except the industry that supplies the most jobs and is most meaningful to our coastal way of life, the fishery!!

Why is the fishery in isolation from all our other industries, in that it is the only one that has no long term plan for its future?
The provincial gov has no plan for the fisheries future and does not pursue the fed gov for the real wrongs that they have done, and are at present doing, to our fishery ?! Is there any wonder that our fishery has disappeared before us, pandered away, what little is left of it, by Ottawa or given to foreigners?

Dr Earle said...

No matter how you look at these facts, spin it, or what ever kind of out of context, isolated, rightful argument any of our gov officials make to talk away the situation of these stated truths....they are in total failure of not standing up for our fisheries renewable , priceless future. They are committing a miscarriage of justice of not defending now the ground work necessary that would build a healthy fisheries future and by not doing so are putting in peril the future welfare of generations of coastal Nflders and Labradorians and their communities.
Perhaps some, especially our fisheries authorities, by now are sick of hearing this repeated criticism of "what’s wrong with our fishery’. Others may say "its gone and never will come back" or move on my son like the times because the fishery is not worth it! Well before you brush it off, read the following and then decide for yourself if our Fishery is worth it... if it’s worth fighting for? As you listen to this keep in the back of your mind that our fishery has the potential to be, and use to be, mush larger than Norway’s.

A Norwegian dragger engineer recently gave me a Norwegian news paper clipping from June of this year which listed the total catch of 4 of their ground fish for 2011, as follows

Cod 703,00 tons
coal fish 173,000 tons
haddock 303,000 tons
turbot 15,000 tons


Total 1,200,000 tons = 2.4 billion lbs
They get $3.50/lb for cod and the other fish averages ~ $3/lb, giving a total value of this yearly catch of $7 Billion dollars for only these 4 species alone!

Fishers on their draggers work 9 months, 5 weeks on/ 5 off, make $150,000 Cdn/year. Coastal fishers, 2 in a small boat like our inshore fishers, who fish in the harbors and close to shore make a couple of tucks a day get $5.00/lb and more for larger shrimp. Catching 2500-3000 lbs a day, are finished by 2 pm, fish 6-7 months and clear also $150,000 a year.

Plant workers on the coast of Norway, according to the internet are some 15,000, who process these catches, work from 7:30 to 2:30pm , 4 days a week and for 9 months year. They are paid $35/hr. and with other benefits for the year their income is ~ $60,000/yr. When they reach the age or retirement all of them receive $35 -40,000/yr for the rest of their life.

It’s hard for me to hear this , not for the success of Norway’s Fishing Industry, but because I know our Fishery should be even larger every year — forever.!! Now you tell me, shouldn’t this be what we are fighting for? Every single one of us in NL?