Mr. Gus Etchegary, Chairman of the Fisheries Community Alliance in N&L, and a longtime advocate on fisheries issues, has condemned  in a hard-hitting letter to N&L media (see below) recent statements by former federal fisheries minister Loyola Hearn.

Dear Editor:

Re: Loyola’s Rant

If the speech by former DFO Minister Loyola Hearn was reported
accurately in last Fridays St. John’s Telegram it surely represents the
epitome of misinformation that has continuously spewed from DFO
Ministers and their senior bureaucrats in recent years. It was another
vain attempt to bury the Federal fisheries mismanagement record since
1970 and particularly since the moratorium was declared in 1992.

How Hearn could muster the unmitigated gall to utter statements that all
is well in the Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries, that DFO has
everything under control and all we need to do is close a few fish
plants and “consolidate” is surely one for the books. It is clear that
whatever little knowledge he had of the N&L fisheries before and during
his unfortunate term of office as Minister has completely evaporated. We
all realize Mr. Hearn is comfortably enjoying his retirement with the
support of two pensions provided by the taxpayer but surely he must be
conscious enough to know some of the “facts of life” regarding the state
of the federally mismanaged fisheries of 2010 of which the fishermen of
our province are keenly aware on a 24 hour basis. Wake up, Mr. Hearn, to
the fact that we have lost 15 percent of our population to the mainland
and twenty five thousand jobs in fish processing and in the goods and
service sector of the industry. On top of that, the future survival of
rural N&L is in jeopardy because of federal fisheries mismanagement by
you, your predecessors and now your successor.

Eighteen years have passed since John Crosbie declared a fishery
moratorium against _Canadian_ participation in our groundfisheries while
foreign fishermen from 20 NAFO nations have continued to fish the same
resource with impunity. In case Mr. Hearn is blinded by the usual DFO
lack of transparency he should know (a) there is no meaningful sign of
recovery of the groundfish species that migrate outside 200 miles and
that foreign vessels continue to fish the various species of fish
diminished through direct fishing or through increased bycatch levels
which NAFO have been able to implement without any objection from
Canada. (b) That the scientific capability of DFO in the N&L Region has
been deteriorating since the moratorium as a result of reduced numbers
of fully qualified scientists because DFO are not replacing retiring
scientists nor those others who are qualified and are moving to jobs
elsewhere or to universities, _and_ due to the fact that (c) the Coast
Guard that has the responsibility to provide reliable Research vessels
to carry out the all-important research surveys and stock assessments,
are incapable of fulfilling that mandate because the three vessels
originally assigned to that task are far beyond their useful life and
are frequently in port due to mechanical breakdowns or are being towed
to port. Additionally, there is every evidence now that recent Federal
budget cuts will exacerbate the situation. In recent days one of the
remaining three vessels, the “Wilfred Templeman” which had two million
dollars spent in refurbishing the vessel, has been stripped of all
scientific capability and has been moved to a dock in St. John’s in a
cold-layup mode and in what appears to be permanent tied-up status.

The continuing lack of transparency concerning foreign overfishing is
frustrating. The Freedom of Information legislation is nothing but a
shield behind which DFO hides when presented with questions requesting
the number of infractions committed by NAFO nations or the punitive
measures supposedly taken by offending countries. The stock answer from
officials in DFO is “ the release of such information could be injurious
to Canadian international negotiations”.

Other than former DFO Minister Hearn and his senior bureaucrats no one
really knew what transpired at the NAFO Annual meeting in Spain when
NAFO succeeded in quelling discussions on implementing Custodial
Management to which the PM Harper and Hearn had committed in
pre-election promises. Instead of NAFO considering Canadian Custodial
Management the Russians, Spanish and other EU members “seized the pen”
and introduced their own amendments to the NAFO agreement which will
eventually permit NAFO nations to regain some measure of control of our
fisheries inside two hundred miles. Those amendments became so
controversial that four former bureaucrats with lengthy international
negotiating experience were alarmed by its implications and they
succeeded in persuading both the House of Commons and Senate Fisheries
Committees to interview numerous expert witnesses and as a result both
the House and Senate Committees rejected the amendments and recommended a debate and vote on the issue in Canada’s Parliament. Following that debate the elected Members of the House of Commons from Victoria, BC to St. John’s, N&L voted 147 to 142 to reject the controversial proposed amendments to the NAFO Convention.

As unbelievable as it may sound, the day after Parliament voted to
reject the controversial amendments the present DFO Minister, Gail Shea
of PEI advised NAFO that Canada was ratifying the same amendments. So
much for democracy, the protection of Canada’s fisheries and any hope of
restoration of one the world’s great sources of protein that has been
practically destroyed by the same NAFO nations that authored the
rejected amendments.

Former DFO Minister Hearn has the audacity to refer three times in his
speech to the need for leadership in our fisheries. He says “there must
be a plan, there has to be some leadership shown here. That would
certainly help”. Having made those pre-election commitments dealing with
(1) foreign overfishing, (2) the deterioration on all fronts of DFO
presence in N&L, especially in the field of science capability, (3)
complete lack of transparency in DFO, (4) the continuing failure of NAFO
to manage stocks migrating outside two hundred miles and (5) recognition
of the obvious fact that N&L is the only fishing province impacted by
foreign overfishing , having made those commitments and persuading the
electorate to put him in the House of Commons and having failed the
people of this province to the extent that its economic future is in
jeopardy, Mr. Hearn should refrain from giving advice to the people now
saddled with the job of rebuilding our fisheries.

Gus Etchegary
Fisheries Community Alliance.

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Last Updated ( Monday, 03 May 2010 11:10 )