FISH-NL files opposition to Marine Protected Area off Newfoundland’s south coast, calling it joke to scientists and insult to inshore harvesters

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 19th, 2017

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) has registered its official opposition to proposed regulations to govern a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Laurentian Channel off Newfoundland’s south coast.

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“The proposed Laurentian Channel MPA is an insult to inshore fish harvesters, and a cruel joke to scientists,” says Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL. “The fact that the proposal has  been signed off on by the FFAW-Unifor is yet another example of a union that no longer champions its members or the fishing industry, and has become a lackie of Ottawa and the oil and gas industry.”

On June 24, the federal government launched a 30-day consultation period over proposed regulations to govern the Laurentian Channel MPA, which, at more than 12,000 square kilometres, would be Canada’s largest — and the third protected area in the province.

The Laurentian Channel area is said to be home to two at-risk species — leatherback turtles and northern wolffish — and is described as a “critical feeding area and migration route into and out of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.”

While the regulations would ban commercial and even recreational fishing in the MPA, oil industry and gas activities — including seismic, and drilling — would be permitted. 

“How can Ottawa keep a straight face in banning fishing, but allowing the oil industry to have its way?” asks Cleary, adding 15 of Canada’s leading marine scientists have also lodged their objection.

While a federal government analysis of the regulations to govern the Laurentian Channel MPA specifically mentions how the FFAW-Unifor is good with them, the analysis goes on to say “some individuals from the inshore fishing sector have expressed concern” regarding the intent to prohibit fishing while allowing oil and gas activities.

“That’s a disgrace,” says Cleary, who, in recent weeks, has accused the FFAW-Unifor of being bought and paid for by the oil industry. To date, the union has failed to reveal how much money oil companies contribute to its coffers. 

FISH-NL also registered other complaints — including what it sees as a “flawed” consultation process, with few inshore harvesters consulted in a handful of poorly advertised public meetings. 

FISH-NL has recommended that Ottawa hold another series of public meetings in communities adjacent to the Laurentian Channel MPA.

FISH-NL also registered concerns over the current boundaries of the proposed MPA, which are located entirely in the province’s fishing zones off the island’s south coast (3Ps and 3Pn) — bypassing Nova Scotia’s fishing zones, as well as waters off the French islands of St. Pierre-Miquelon.

Scientists say the original boundaries of the Marine Protected Area were 33 per cent greater than they are today. 

“Why are Newfoundland and Labrador inshore harvesters the only ones impacted by the proposed MPA?” asks Cleary. “The Laurentian Channel MPA may have been born out of environmental stewardship, but it’s been mutated by money and politics.”

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