FISH-NL calls for independent, expert review of DFO in light of reported dramatic decline of key stocks in waters off province 

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) is calling for an independent, external review of the management/science capabilities of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans in relation to the reported dramatic decline of key stocks off Newfoundland and Labrador.

“The picture right now for our harvesters is bleaker than the moratorium,” says Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL. “When cod stocks collapsed in the early 1990s harvesters could turn to other species, but crab, shrimp and south coast cod are apparently in simultaneous free fall, if not outright collapse, and the common theme is DFO management.”

“There’s also word that caplin stocks may be trouble,” says Richard Gillett, Vice-President of FISH-NL and a harvester from Twillingate. “If there’s no crab or shrimp or caplin, then there’s nowhere to turn. If crab alone goes then the moratorium will look like a church picnic compared to what we’ll be facing.”

FISH-NL is writing a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau requesting that his government assemble a team of experts from outside the country to evaluate DFO’s management/science capabilities, specifically in relation to fish stocks off Newfoundland and Labrador, which have an international component.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the northern cod moratorium, a fishery closure that was initially slated to last two years. Decades of cuts by consecutive federal governments have left DFO a shadow of its former self. As scientists retired they weren’t replaced, and stock assessments often weren’t carried out because of the decrepit state of the Canadian Coast Guard fleet.

Further, the findings of scientists, as with this year’s crab stock report, are too often at odds with what fish harvesters are reporting on the water.

DFO also appears prepared to contract out its constitutional responsibilities for fisheries management, as outlined under the Terms of Union with Canada.

Last year, unbeknownst to fish harvesters, the FFAW attempted to introduce a 5-cent-a-pound levy on lobster to cover the union’s “management” of that fishery. The levy, which was to be paid by harvesters, was voted down by fish processing companies.

To quote the union: “The bulk of the work once conducted by DFO is now being done by the FFAW, with no financial or in-kind support from the processing sector.”

“DFO must be held accountable for fisheries management,” says Cleary. “Period. End of story. Too many fisheries have failed over too many years while fisheries elsewhere in the world have collapsed and rebounded even stronger than they were before.”


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