NDP MP reflects on the cod fishery
20 years later: Where are we now?
By Shane Belbin
The following article appears in the Tuesday (July 3rd) edition of The Muse, Memorial University's student newspaper.
The scene at the Delta Hotel St. John's has changed a lot in the 20 years since July 2, 1992; but according to NDP MP Ryan Cleary, not much else has changed. It was there that then federal Fisheries Minister John Crosbie announced that the 500 year old Newfoundland and Labrador cod fishery would be closing.
Cleary remembers that day well, as he attended the event as the Fisheries Reporter for St. John’s newspaper The Telegram. Now as a politician, Cleary notes the importance of remember the event to further change.
“July the second should be marked every year until our fishery is treated with the respect it deserves,” said Cleary.
To this end, Cleary organized a collection of speakers ranging from politicians, union representatives, and those who saw their livelihoods and those around them collapse with the closure of the fishery. Speaking in the same room where the closure was announced, Cleary dubbed the event “Empty Nets,” and hoped to address what he considered to be the greatest failure of confederation.
Failure was a dominant theme of the various speakers. To many, the moratorium represented a failure of the government to act on behalf of the people of the province, and the years since have only been marred by even greater failure.
While a conference at Confederation Building earlier in the day celebrated the success of other areas of the fishery, Cleary emphasized the lack of recovery planning that the cod fishery has received.
While the moratorium was only intended to last for two years, it has already been ten times that with no clear end in sight. When Clearly consulted with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans on the status of current rebuilding plans for the northern cod stocks, he was shocked to find out that the plans were simply listed as “under development.” To Cleary, this demonstrated a complete lack of respect for the people of the province.
However, there was still optimism found in the room. Provincial NDP leader Lorraine Michael summarized the required course of action as a straightforward, but difficult one.
“We all know it, it's very simplistic, but we all have to work together,” said Michael.
Only through involvement and keeping the dialogue open, can there be any hope for recovery in the cod fishery was the encouraging call to action found in many of the speakers' messages.
“We're here to participate, to engage, and to hold the people we elect accountable,” said Robert Chisholm, an MP colleague of Cleary's, and NDP Critic for Fisheries and Oceans.
In the words of Jim Bennett, Liberal MHA and Opposition Critic for Fisheries & Aquaculture: “Keep on demanding change, or else in 10 years, 20 years, we will still be here, and nothing will be better.”