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Fishing for votes: parties don't have much to say about wild fisheries (other than B.C. salmon)

Three of the country's mainstream federal parties — Liberals, Conservatives and NDPspecifically mention Pacific salmon in their election platforms, but make no mention of East Coast stocks. Here's the skinny on what the parties have to say about commercial fisheries.

Fishing boats tied up in St. Bride's on Newfoundland's Cape Shore.


LIBERAL PLATFORM


You’ll find mention of Canada’s commercial fisheries on Page 50 in the Cleaner, Greener Future chapter, between Protecting Nature, and Tackling Plastic Pollution and Building a Circular Economy.


The only specific fishery mentioned is Pacific salmon in the context of “advancing” the $647 million Pacific Salmon Strategy.

Next year is the 30th anniversary of the northern cod moratorium — imagine if we had a Northern Cod Strategy after the fishery collapsed? (Instead of a weak recovery plan announced in 2019, 27 years after the moratorium.)

Of course, this is the same federal Liberal government that banned at-sea fish farming off the B.C. coast, while investing in at-sea fish farming off the NL coast.


It's as if the country has two-tier fisheries.


CONSERVATIVE PLATFORM


Fisheries gets its own heading on Page 36 of the federal Conservative platform, and starts off strong with this statement: "Canada’s fishing communities feel beset by crisis. Many critical stocks are in trouble, new conflicts are arising, and many whose livelihoods are made on the water are feeling ignored and excluded."


The Conservative plan goes on to say the party will prioritize stock assessments and stock recovery planning, as well as strengthen the role of advisory bodies in fisheries management to enhance cooperation.


Of course, it was a previous Stephen Harper government that in 2011 shut down the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (FRCC), an advisory body that collected the views of fishermen to help make better science decisions. The FRCC was founded in the early 1990s, in the wake of closures that rocked the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery starting with a moratorium on northern cod in 1992.


The Conservative platform also has a section on Pacific Salmon Strategy,


"The iconic Pacific salmon species are part of the fabric of life for communities throughout British Columbia and are an essential part of BC’s marine and freshwater ecosystems."


Imagine if Newfoundland and Labrador had such an iconic species.


NDP PLATFORM

Fisheries is found under the Building Canadian Industries and Supporting Good Jobs section on page 38.


On the Pacific coast, the NDP will support the transition to land-based fish farming, while there's no mention of doing the same on the Atlantic Coast.


There's that hint of two-tier fisheries again.


On the Atlantic coast, the NDP will "ensure" that resource allocations in the fishery are guided by the principles of adjacency, historic dependence and sustainability, while also respecting Indigenous rights."


No word on whether the NDP would support adding the adjacency principle to the federal Fisheries Act, like was done with indigenous rights.


Amendments to the Fisheries Act dictate that Ottawa must take into consideration the impact of management decisions on Indigenous peoples, but failed to include the principles of adjacency/historical attachment to ensure NL's inshore harvesters have priority access to adjacent stocks.


This cartoon by well-known author/illustrator/cartoonist Peter Pickersgill appeared in local papers in the 1990s. All these years later, and the adjacency principle still isn’t included in the federal Fisheries Act. Amendments have been made to uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples, but not inshore harvesters.


SEA-NL plans to send the parties a questionnaire in the coming days on issues specific to the NL fishery, and owner-operators.


Ryan Cleary,

SEA-NL


Independent licensed owner-operators are encouraged to join SEA-NL here. These blog posts will be public for a limited time, before becoming exclusive to the membership.

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