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SEA-NL calls for independent investigation of DFO operations in province

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Tuesday, Jan. 25th, 2022

DFO's NL headquarters in the east end of St. John's.



Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to order an independent investigation of the operations of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans in the province amid alarming allegations of political interference raised by the CBC.

“DFO’s last shred of credibility in this province is on the line,” says Ryan Cleary, SEA-NL’s interim Executive Director.

“The allegations by the union representing DFO scientists not only call into question the department’s faith in itself, but what little faith inshore harvesters and all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have left in DFO to manage the wild commercial fisheries.”

The allegations by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, the union representing DFO scientists in the province, are reportedly outlined in a November letter to the federal deputy minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Cleary notes that CBC NL has not released the letter, but has reported extensively on allegations said to be outlined in the document. The allegations include that scientific advice was altered, and that DFO “exhibited a pattern where interference with scientific work is commonplace.”

The allegations accuse lobbyists, industry — including the FFAW-Unifor, and Atlantic Groundfish Council (representing the offshore dragger sector), senior bureaucrats, and at least one politician (Minister Andrew Parsons) of undermining the work of DFO scientists in the province.

In reference to Parsons, it’s alleged that as provincial Energy Minister he “lobbied DFO to change or withhold the publication of its science advice,” which he had been leaked a copy of. The science advice reportedly involved measures to protect corals and sponges during oil and gas exploration and development.

The allegations refer to a seal task team, appointed by the federal government in 2019, which the scientists’ union alleges is not an example of the scientific community collaborating, "but rather industry influencing departmental science."

The allegations also specifically refer to the altering of science advice regarding the cod stock off southern Newfoundland in fishing zone 3Ps as a possible way to manipulate the dwindling quota.

SEA-NL raised the allegations by the scientists’ union in mid-January during a virtual meeting of a DFO advisory group assigned to recommend this year’s cod quota for the 3Ps stock — calling at the time for an investigation.

In response, the Atlantic Groundfish Council wrote DFO to ask that the department reconsider inviting a SEA-NL representative to sit as an observer at future meetings.

“These are very serious allegations directed at the core of fishery management in the province, and to move forward we need the Prime Minister to order a thorough, third-party investigation supported by Premier Andrew Furey whose government is also implicated,” Cleary says.

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