Minister for Department of Fisheries and Oceans Gail Shea announces commitment on eve of Boston Seafood show
© Guardian photo by Teresa Wright
Egmont MP Gail Shea in her Charlottetown office
ALBERTON — Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea gave assurances Thursday her department is intent on honouring all of the recommendations the Maritime Lobster Panel directed at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in its November report.
The report by the Maritime Lobster Panel and an independent review of the P.E.I. lobster industry, Shea said, both clearly articulated the challenges facing the Atlantic lobster industry.
“I recognize these challenges and am committed to helping the lobster industry address these issues. I also want to make sure the work that has gone into these reports is not wasted, nor momentum lost,” she said.
One of those recommendations will see the department develop and implement a modern, electronic point-of-sale data collection system for tracking lobster catch effort that’s automatic and available in real time. Shea said the system was highly recommended as a way for industry partners to know what they’re dealing with, including how much product is available.
Shea’s announcement comes on the eve of the Boston Seafood Show and two weeks prior to the Maritime Lobster Summit in Halifax.
“I wanted to set a positive tone and just recognize the hard work that’s gone into this,” she said in commenting on the timing of her announcement.
Another recommendation calls for DFO to move away from the practice of requiring consensus from licence-holders in a fishing area before considering change in management plans.
“What we’re saying is, ‘We’ll empower your organization; we’ll recognize your organization.
You tell us what you’ve decided’,” she stated, but indicated DFO will maintain control over things like quota so as not to negatively impact stocks, and would not approve a change that negatively impacted another fishing region.
Shea said the change in direction will involve a lot of internal work at DFO and indicated that process is already underway.
Shea said DFO will assist harvester organizations in taking a larger role in managing the resource they depend on by working with them in developing clear change guidelines.
The managing director of the Prince Edward Island Fishermen’s Association, Ian MacPherson, was pleased with the minister’s announcement, indicating it reaffirms some of the discussions she’s had with fishermen’s organizations.
“It appears there’s a real drive to make DFO
more responsive to the demands of the fishery,” he said.
He said organizations have provided the department with feedback on policy change and how to
move change along more quickly.
Shea said DFO will work with interested harvester organizations to develop modern, industry-driven, self-rationalization initiatives that improve the economic outcomes of the industry, but stressed those initiatives will not include taxpayer-funded buyout programs.
MacPherson admitted he’s disappointed there doesn’t seem to be an appetite at either the federal or provincial levels of government to help fund rationalization programs, He said the buyout four years ago had a significant impact on the industry. He said he hopes the minister at least leaves the door open to collaborative opportunities.
“We’re saying there are a number of ways to do rationalization that don’t involve taxpayers’ money, including stacking of licences. That, she said, could involve two fishermen getting together and buying out a third fisherman. One fisherman would get to retire and the other fishermen would acquire some of his gear, while retiring some of the traps, effectively reducing effort in the process.”
Although she couldn’t identify what effect her department’s commitment will have on prices this year, she suggested other changes at the federal level, including the trade
agreement Canada is
penning with the European Union, and the one just signed with South Korea, should lead to new opportunities for Canadian fish products.