The following article is published in today's Halifax Chronicle-Herald.
DFO mum on resource cuts
Leaked memo: Fisheries to change from yearly cycle
By PAUL McLEOD Ottawa Bureau
Tue, Oct 4 - 4:53 AM
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is looking to cut its resources for monitoring and regulating fish stocks, according to an internal government memo.
The communique from assistant deputy ministers Siddika Mithani and David Balfour to regional directors says DFO wants to move all fisheries to a multi-year cycle, as opposed to being re-evaluated each year.
The memo was leaked to NDP St. John’s South-Mount Pearl MP Ryan Cleary, who provided a copy to The Chronicle Herald.
Pressed for clarification Monday, Nova Scotia-based DFO staff referred the issue to head office. Ottawa staff did not return a request for comment by deadline.
Cleary said the federal government is dismantling the science wing of DFO.
"From all reports, DFO’s science branch has been gutted, reduced to a skeleton crew as scientists aren’t replaced as they retire," he said.
All government departments have been told to brace for cuts of between five and 10 per cent.
The document says that in February management "requested a draft schedule for moving all fisheries to a multi-year approach over the next three years."
This schedule was due by April 1 of this year, but the timetable was apparently derailed by disagreements within the department.
"We do not yet have a solid plan for implementation, as some regions have not agreed to a single proposed frequency," the memo reads.
Some fisheries — including over a half-dozen off the coast of Nova Scotia such as Atlantic swordfish and bluefin tuna — are already on multi-year cycles called IFMPs. The quotas for these fisheries are set typically every three to five years, though scientists continue to monitor fish stocks during the off-years.
What’s not clear is whether DFO is looking to just move more fisheries to IFMPs or cut the scientific census-taking in between as well.
Bedford Institute of Oceanography researcher Ken Burt said the former might not cause much negative impact but the latter would be a big blow.
"It may have little effect. What would be a big effect would be if we lost our capacity to do these annual surveys," he said Monday.
The annual surveys were what allowed Burt’s team to discover that cod and haddock stocks were rebounding off Nova Scotia. Their paper on the subject was recently accepted by the prestigious environmental journal Nature.
Management is hoping to settle on a new system in time for consultation with industry this fall. Some in the fishing industry would likely support the move, as it gives them a consistent quota they can bank on over multiple years.
The changes will start to be enacted next year.
Meanwhile, Cleary has introduced a private members bill in the House of Commons that calls for an inquiry into the collapse of Newfoundland and Labrador’s cod stocks. Cleary blamed DFO mismanagement and calls it "Confederation’s greatest failure."
His bill would call for an investigation into how quotas are set by DFO management. The government has signalled it will vote down the bill, even citing the Nova Scotia rebound as proof that quotas and moratoriums are working.