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Fight for the fishery or flee Newfoundland and Labrador

Updated: Aug 16, 2021

The following letter to the editor by fisheries advocate/one-time industry executive Gus Etchegary, 97, is published in today's St. John's Telegram. (Aug. 12th, 2021)

View from above the Processor's Rock Small-Boat basin near The Narrows, the entrance to ST. John's harbour.

If you could save and safeguard hundreds of communities in Newfoundland and Labrador, would you make that effort — especially if it involved immersing yourself in understanding our fishery past, present and future, and perhaps even engaging in a fish fight?

That’s the question the Fishery Community Alliance (FCA) has been posing to endless politicians, both provincially and federally; and, most recently, to Municipalities of Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL).

The response from all sectors have been less than encouraging — in fact, most have ignored any calls for any sort of fish conversation, debate, symposium, inquiry, or even confronting Ottawa on a single issue.

They continue to deliberately ignore the fact that over 30,000 of our men and women lost their jobs when our fishery collapsed in 1992.

There is little doubt that the fishery is close to the cliff of collapsing with most stocks in decline.

The upcoming 30th milestone of the cod moratorium should be a stark reminder of the fact we delivered one of the worlds largest and most diversified fisheries to the federal government to sustainably manage on our behalf in 1949.

Instead, they mismanaged it to near extinction and it's not coming back any time soon if we continue on this path of least resistance with the federal government, who continues to control our fishery and our future, over 2,000 kilometres away from our harbours and our lives.

And yet, there is not a gig in any of the leaders that have been mandated to save our fisheries and our rural communities. It is little wonder we are in serious financial trouble.

It is also high time the organization that represents municipalities and outport communities in the province (including all its members) muster up a collective fire to ensure the fisheries that once drove our economies are no longer ignored by our federal government.

They must come up with a smart action plan to firstly convince Ottawa that the stocks are rebuilt with urgency; and educate them on our fish culture.

The fish complacency is hard to fathom. Here is a renewable fish resource that not only can safeguard the future of our people and our province, but provide food security to our nation and the world; and yet, our leaders stand by watching and practically saluting a disaster.

One of Canada’s most respected fish scientists, George Rose, who spent years in N.L. working to save the northern cod, said it most succinctly: “If the Grand Banks fisheries have been an icon for abuse and mismanagement, they can become an icon for restoration and rebuilding … Whichever path is taken, the fishery will write the future of Newfoundland and Labrador as it has written its history.”

Please, let’s get our act together and do what is morally right for N.L. so we can write a better future. If you’re not fighting for the fisheries, you are likely in the wrong province.

It’s that important to our future.

Gus Etchegary Fishery Community Alliance

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