FISH-NL calls for resignation of federal minister of Fisheries and Oceans

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) is calling for Dominic LeBlanc’s resignation in light of his failure to address the current fisheries crisis. 

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“Twenty six years after the northern cod moratorium, and the federal minister of Fisheries and Oceans still isn’t prepared to lead and do what needs to be done,” said Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL. “It’s time for LeBlanc to get out of the way, or for the Prime Minster to replace him.”

DFO released late Tuesday the management approach for the 2018 northern cod stewardship fishery. The catch will be limited to 9,500 tonnes — 25 per cent less than last year. Details of specific management measures — including opening and closing dates, as well as weekly limit amounts — aren’t yet finalized.

DFO’s scientists said earlier this year that the northern cod stock had declined about 30 per cent from 2017-2018. Not only does the stock remain in the critical zone, but has suffered further decline that’s likely to continue through 2019 — even with zero fishing effort.

DFO scientists say there’s has been an increase in the natural mortality of northern cod, which includes deaths other than fishing (starvation, old age, seals, etc.). 

In mid-April, FISH-NL called on Ottawa to take immediate action on northern cod, including a freeze on all scheduled offshore seismic activity off the province's east coast, support for the taking of the entire seal quota, the introduction of tags in the food fishery, and the ordering of an independent review of “epic” federal fisheries mismanagement in the Newfoundland and Labrador region. 

None of the actions were taken.

FISH-NL takes the stand that it’s utterly useless — as well as an insult to the province’s inshore harvesters — for the federal government to solely introduce restrictions to the commercial fishery when their own scientists say fishing isn’t the problem.

“And that’s exactly what LeBlanc has done,” said Cleary. “LeBlanc is blaming harvesters and harvesters alone for the decline in northern cod when his own scientists say that’s not the case, and our seven MPs are just as bad for letting the minister get away with it.”

The 2016/17 northern cod management plans were developed — not by DFO, which has the constitutional responsibly — but by a private entity led by the FFAW-Unifor and west coast Newfoundland fish processor Bill Barry.

The so-called Groundfish Industry Development Council (GIDC) developed the management plans with zero input from inshore harvesters. 

LeBlanc has made a number of decisions as minister that have hurt this province, including the expropriation of a surf clam quota in a case being investigated by the federal Ethics Commissioner, allowed offshore draggers back at the fragile south coast cod stock, refused to include adjacency/historical attachment with amendments to the federal Fisheries Act, and failed to give suffering inshore harvesters access to more halibut and turbot. 

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