Monday, May 14, 2012

'If I were an Atlantic premier, I'd sue the feds' ... and other great fishery quotes



The United Kingdom trawler Marbella was cited April 9th for a fishing infraction committed while fishing cod off Newfoundland just outside Canada’s 200-mile limit on the so-called Flemish Cap.

The citation (details of which you’ll find here) was issued because the trawler did not have a valid capacity plan, as required under the conservation and enforcement measures of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO).

NAFO oversees fishing in international waters, although it’s pretty much toothless, unable to enforce the quotas it sets.

The citation was the third one issued to date this year.

The first two were slapped against a Spanish trawler in early February for illegal fishing.

Some details are found here, but my office has written the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans to fill in the rest of the blanks.

Stay tuned.

A crisis in quotes

The following series of quotes pretty much sum up the history of the NL fishery. (First published in April 2010 on Fisherman’s Road.)

CAST AWAY

“Cast away, to be forced from a ship by a disaster.”
— The Mariner’s Dictionary, as quoted in The Shipping News.

“Who is going to look after the sea after the fishermen are gone?”
— Angela Sanfilippo, an activist with Fishermen’s Wives of Gloucester, in the late 1990s.

“Look at Mother Nature on the run in the 1970s …”
— Neil Young, After the Gold Rush, 1972.

“The oddity of a province, located on a major world fishing resource, that is unable to support decently some 15,000 fishermen and that is encouraged by the national government to reduce its fishing commitment requires some explanation.”
— The late David Alexander, an economic historian, 1977.

“What we have is not an adjustment problem, but the most wrenching societal upheaval since the Great Depression. Our communities are in crisis. The people of the fishery are in turmoil.”
— Earle McCurdy, president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers’ Union, as quoted in Atlantic Fisherman in the early 1990s.

“The beginning of the end of the northern cod arrived in 1954 in the form of the British ship, the Fairtry. The three-million dollar vessel was the first factory-freezer trawler in the world. These huge stern trawlers, complete with on-board processing plants, enabled their owners to triple their cod catch. Even with annual operating costs of $4.5 million apiece, their enormous processing capacity, up to 600 tonnes of fish a day, made them floating gold mines.”
— Michael Harris, from his 1999 book Lament for an Ocean.

“One can hardly be accused of breaking a non-existent rule.”
— Luis Atienza, former Spanish Fisheries minister to the Financial Times.

A 1901 editorial in the St. John’s Trade Review predicted that if Newfoundland did not rethink her fishing effort “European fishermen will come over and carry off our fish from under our nose.”

“If I were an Atlantic premier, I’d sue the feds. If I were a fisherman or a processor, I’d launch a class-action lawsuit. Heads should be rolling in Ottawa.
— Silver Donald Cameron, The Globe and Mail.

“There’s no fish, so I can afford to do the right thing.”
— Brian Tobin, former federal Fisheries minister.

“If proper fisheries management does not represent a vital development opportunity, what does?”
— Cabot Martin, No Fish in Our Lives, 1992.

“We’re no angels here. The fishermen that you hear complaining all over Eastern Canada — many, many of them are guilty of overfishing, discarding, throwing away smaller fish. The fishery in the Gulf (is) almost ruined. The foreigners didn’t ruin the fishery in the Gulf. We ruined the fishery in the Gulf.”
— John Crosbie, former federal Fisheries minister.

“By 1964, just seven years after fishermen’s UI was introduced, and with no increase in the general population, there was a 33 per cent increase in the number of inshore fishermen. During this same period, the inshore catch of northern cod per fisherman fell by 50 per cent.”
Lament for an Ocean.

“Since the fisheries began, about 100 million tonnes of cod have been taken from the waters of Newfoundland and Labrador. If this amount of fish were sold at today’s prices in St. John’s, it would be worth some $650 billion — yet only paltry amounts have been reinvested into fisheries research or improving cod products and markets.”
— George Rose, from his 2007 book, Cod, The Ecological History of the North Atlantic Fisheries.

“Perhaps the fundamental administrative problem is that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has suffered from policy schizophrenia, never being able to determine whether its chief goal is to set and implement policy for the fishery as a viable industry or whether it is to maximize employment and save non-viable rural communities."
— William E. Shrank in the journal Marine Policy.

“Scientists advice me there is no recorded evidence in the scientific literature or our own research which states that fishing on the spawning grounds does measurable damage to the cod stocks.”
— Former federal Fisheries minister Tom Siddon in a 1990 address to the House of Commons.

“If an oil company went out to the ocean and dragged heavy objects over the ocean bed, twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year, there would be a public outcry against the destruction of the environment, yet that is exactly what the offshore fishing industry does with its bottom-trawl technology.”
— Cabot Martin.

“Scientists were also explicitly ordered then, as they are today, not to discuss ‘politically sensitive matters' (e.g. the status of fish stocks currently under moratoria) with the public, irrespective of the scientific basis, and publication status, of the scientists’ concerns.”
— Drs. Jeffrey Hutchings, Carl Walters and Richard Haedrich, three respective university scientists, in the 1997 paper, Is scientific inquiry incompatible with government information control?

“You can’t discount the fact there are problems with science fitting into the government structure, and that scientists may feel that they have to adopt or adhere to some kind of official departmental, bureaucratic position.”
— John Crosbie

“The last Beothic Indian died in Newfoundland in 1829. The Great Auk, a large flightless bird that once lived in profusion on Funk Island, was hunted to extinction in 1852. The last Newfoundland wolf died in 1930. Schools of haddock 150 miles long and 25 miles wide once lived on the Grand Banks and the St. Pierre Bank. The Soviets and the Spanish lined up their factory-freezers for miles and took the spawning stock. In five years, the haddock was gone.”
Lament for an Ocean.

“If I were to look for a single villain, I would look to our known inability to match social policy with technological capacity. We have never in the history of the world been able to amend our social policies quickly enough to keep pace with the speed at which technology grows. And I think that is what happened there. We just became too technologically competent. We became able to kill too easily. We became able to kill everything.”
— Dr. Leslie Harris.

“We have for far too long blamed our weather, our location, or others for our problems. It’s about time we took a long, hard look in the mirror. No society can escape the responsibility for how it lives. And it is in that basic, fundamental way that gaining power over our fisheries is the first essential step to growing up.”
— Cabot Martin.

“If the Grand Banks fisheries have been an icon for abuse and mismanagement, they can become an icon for restoration and rebuilding … Whichever path is taken, the fishery will write the future of Newfoundland and Labrador as it has written its history.”
— George Rose.

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