Friday, July 23, 2010

Local MP comments on fishery

Just noticed this article with some comments from our local Member of Parliament, Nathan Cullen on the state of the north coast fishery.

Now, in all fairness, Mr Cullen is a socialist leaning politician whose support base includes fishing and shoreworker unions, so he is pandering a bit to his supporters in this article. Right off the bat, he mentions changes must be made if the industry is to remain sustainable.
Well, here's some news Nathan: the industry is obviously not sustainable!! Nor is it even self supporting. It is a taxpayer subsidized activity for the most part that is dying a long, slow death.

In our mind, sustainable somehow denotes an activity that can continue with either no harm to the environment or with no assistance from outside. The north coast commercial fishery achieves neither....It requires inland, taxpayer funded, hatcheries to mass produce the fish they catch in the first place. Plus, the actual fishing part has harmed most wild stocks of salmon and negatively impacts valuable steelhead stocks. There is no way this industry can be described as 'sustainable' no matter what Mr Cullen, or for that fact the MSC, thinks.

Mr Cullen then shows his real colours by supporting the commercial fishermen and chastising the sportfishery as 'unregulated'. Please give us a break Nathan. How can you support a dying, unsustainable activity while criticising a positive industry for economic diversification in Prince Rupert? Why do you think half the charter boat operators out of Prince Rupert are ex-commercial fishermen?? Do you think it might be because they can earn a thousand dollars a day...all summer long...just by taking tourists out fishing. Or do you think it better for them to stay commercial gillnetting, with its openings measured in days per summer? Come on, as the Member of Parliament supposedly representing all of the our constituency we would like a bit more progressive approach to the problem than what you present here.

There is a major paradigm shift going on...which you apparently havent noticed....where old industries are fading and being replaced by new ones that are more beneficial to the area. Is it tough on people caught up in the transition...sure it is. But fighting for changes to the fishery to basically keep the status quo, just because of ties to union fishers or shoreworkers, is completely missing the bigger picture.

Furthermore, Mr Cullen's assertion of an unregulated sportfishery is totally unjustified. DFO Enforcement statistics show more effort towards the fresh and salt water recreational fisheries than commercial fisheries by far . Statistics shows DFO Officers are quite enthusiastic in their enforcement efforts towards recreational anglers, even to the point of issuing dozens of tickets for things like barbed hooks. Meanwhile, an examination of the commercial fishery enforcement turns up far less charges or warnings. The major bias towards the commercial industry in enforcement is a longstanding well know least to everyone except Mr Cullen it appears. ( We even started a CEC case against DFO for enforcement bias, see link

We wonder why Mr Cullen would be against a tourism industry that brings badly needed dollars to such a chronically depressed area such as Prince Rupert? Does Mr Cullen know the value of a sport caught fish dwarfs the value of a commercial caught fish? It is in the best interest of Canada and its wise use of resources to promote activities like sportfishing and place less emphasis on industrial extraction; get the most bang per buck, so to speak...and in fisheries sportfishing achives this quite readily. The days of relying on bulk commercial catch are over with fish quality being the prime motivation.
There are also issues like gillnet bycatch, taxpayer subsidies in fish production, subsidized docking fees, EI, etc,etc. Commercial fishing is a net loss industry basically with recent economic studies highlighting this fact.

Mr Cullen should using his efforts to push for an honorable exit strategy for people still engaged in commercial fishing on the north coast, most notably the non-selective gillnetting fleet. Instead of standing by and watching their death by a thousand cuts, politicians should be pushing for a restructuring of the gillnet fleet with a focus on license retirements and shifts towards selective fisheries which do less harm.
Come on Nathan get with the program...and stop parroting the union criticisms of the sportfishery for cheap headlines and get down to work on reorganising the commercial fishery.

MP Discusses Need For Fishery Reform
By Shaun Thomas - The Northern View
Published: July 13, 2010 11:00 PM
Skeena – Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen says some significant changes need to be made in how both the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Federal Government operate if the commercial industry is to remain sustainable.

The comments come during what Cullen termed a “tragic” season for the fleet on the North Coast, and Cullen said part of the solution needs to be more stakeholder engagement and equality between the commercial and sport sectors.

“The frustration the commercial fishermen have is that there is so little oversight over the sport industry. The commercial side has to face all sorts of regulations, observation and rules, but the sports side seems to be able to fish regardless of the situation with the fish and have very little to no oversight. Those things have to be improved dramatically,” he said during a July 8 media call, noting he’s been pushing for an overhaul of the system since he was elected.

“I have some sympathy for the DFO because a perfect plan probably doesn’t exist that will satisfy everybody, but what we have been encouraging is the notion of a stakeholder planning group where they can really have input and the DFO is one of those stakeholders rather than being the judge, jury and executioner…The commercial fishing fleet has been devastated over the past several years. Making the fishery sustainable is in everyone’s interest

As well as the local involvement in ensuring a commercial industry in the future, Cullen said the Federal Government has to provide the DFO the resources it needs to do the job properly.

“The other thing I would say is that for something to be sustainable you have to be able to go out and monitor it, and the funding for the DFO to go out and count the fish is embarrassing. The Federal Government, if they believe in this industry and this resource, has to step up.”

1 comment:

Snagly said...

I'm a non-resident Alien steelhead sportfisherman facing 2-or-3 day a week bans on Skeena tribs beginning in 2011. I certainly believe that the economic interests of BC residents would be far better served if the residents only days weren't in place as it will certainly decrease tourism revenues. But a special interest group -- in this case BC resident steelhead anglers -- has successfully argued its case and the province as a whole suffers economically.

So against this backdrop of special interest groups arguing points of view that benefit them to the detriment of the average citizen, it's not surprising to read that commercial fishermen and onshore fishing industry workers are also fighting their corner. Emotions tend to outweigh eocnomic interests at all ends of the political spectrum.