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Fisheries management at ‘rock bottom’, N.L. group says

Gus Etchegary is chair of the Fishery Community Alliance. - SaltWire Network file photo
Gus Etchegary is chair of the Fishery Community Alliance. - SaltWire Network file photo

The Fishery Community Alliance is claiming fish that is landed and exported from a number of ports in Newfoundland and Labrador with cold storage facilities is not being properly traced by the province or Ottawa.

In a news release Wednesday, March 7, the alliance called the lack of oversight further evidence of negligence in managing the resource on the part of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the provincial Department of Fisheries and Land Resources.

The alliance says its members found out about the issue after they became aware of increasing shipments of unprocessed fish leaving the province for final processing.

Alliance chair Gus Etchegary said that prompted further investigation into the quantities and species of unprocessed fish being landed by factory freezer trawlers in the ports, which have large cold storage facilities to keep the product before it is shipped. The release identifies St. Anthony and Harbour Grace as two of the ports.

According to Etchegary, after the alliance contacted the federal and provincial departments numerous times both by email and telephone, it became clear neither had any information on the quantity and species of unprocessed fish landed in the ports. There does not seem to be a process in place for collecting the data either, he said.

"The fishery conducted by (factory freezer trawlers) is uncontrolled, unrestricted and unchecked, so Ottawa and the province cannot confirm these vessels are in compliance with allocations by species and volumes issued by DFO," Etchegary said.

"How can a fishery resource be managed properly when they do not have any reliable information of annual landings by the inshore and offshore participants?"

Taking into consideration DFO has reduced its scientific capabilities in Newfoundland and Labrador through budget cuts, and its research vessels frequently breakdown or have to be towed to port, Etchegary said fishery management has obviously hit rock bottom.

The alliance is calling on both levels of government to immediately acknowledged the fishery crisis, take responsibility and come up with a strategic plan to address the challenges.

"Federally and provincially, there are no leaders nor vision to salvage the fishery and the huge problems facing our province,” Etchegary said.

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