Tuesday, June 16, 2009

DFO as Black Hole

Copied below with permission are parts of a good interview from this past March with Otto Langer, a 32 veteran ex-DFO habitat biologist on Tyee Bridge's Salmon Nation and DFO blog. http://salmon-nation-and-the-dfo.blogspot.com/2009/04/still-black-hole.html

Is the DFO a big part of the solution, or a big part of the problem when we talk about fisheries conservation in BC, or both?

Well, I’d say right now they’re a big part of the problem, and if we want to revitalize the fisheries, we have to do a significant restoration effort of the DFO so they can be part of the solution. The way we’re set right now, I can’t see us making any giant leap forward to ensure that we sustain the fishery for future generations if DFO carries on in the present manner.

When you say restore the DFO, what would that restoration look like? What do we need to do so we can get the DFO doing what it’s supposed to be doing?

I think it starts right at the top, in the Parliament buildings, with the Minister. We need a Minister who’s really concerned about the fishery and wants a fishery for future generations, and who believes in a strong federal role to manage the fishery properly, and protect habitat in perpetuity. Right now— seems like, or often— the last several Ministers, we’ve ended up with less than a nice firm apple in Ottawa.

I’m not going to call them rotten apples at the bottom of the barrel, but the fisheries ministers have been very ineffective and we seem to have another unknown Minister right now, Minister Shea, and I know on the Fraser River gravel removal issue, we wrote her a letter three months ago signed by eight different environmental groups and we still don’t have a response. We wrote a letter saying we have no response, and we had no response to that letter! So it seems like it’s a bit of a black hole.

The phrase that Mr Langer uses that stands out the most is "...DFO is like a black hole..." Tyee Bridge describes black holes best when he states they "can't change their nature; they drain the light and energy from all orbiting bodies, and will continue to do so for all eternity, no matter what you throw at them."

What a great analogy and how unfortunately true in relation to DFO this is. In our own experience with DFO, both regionally and locally, we have found certain topics or issues generate the 'black hole' response from DFO managers. Whether this non-response is just overworked bureaucrats ignoring the usual trouble makers or a sign of a deeper disdain for any criticism of their management of the salmon resource is open for debate. But it is very troubling when a government agency feels it is above replying to the general public. (A prime example is the fish farm issue and Alex Morton's petition with over 14,000 signatures and yet no formal DFO response.)
More on this to come.

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