Friday, March 28, 2008

MP calls for stakeholders to be considered in DFO deliberations

With fears that this fishing season may be as poor as last years running through the region, the area MP, Nathan Cullen is calling on DFO to involve all local stakeholders in their decision making process.

Looking for a more locally based solution to fishing problems than those offered out of the bureaucracy of Ottawa, Cullen is hoping to see stakeholders provide input as to suggested opening and allocation decisions made by the federal department.

He outlined his thoughts on the fishery issue in Wednesday's Daily News.

MP urges DFO to finally get it right this year
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Pages one and three

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen is hoping this will be the year that Fisheries and Oceans Canada starts to include local stakeholders in its consultations.

"I've been meeting with commercial and sports fishermen from across the Northwest as well as First Nation communities and there is a great fear this could again be a terrible fishing year unless DFO changes its ways," he said.

"The fundamental push we are putting on right now is to allow for greater local input.
"I have been working with groups to set up stakeholder tables that allow local communities and the local interest groups to influence when openings happen, how they happen and how allocation decisions are made because it is too often that decisions are made in Ottawa which have little to do with reality on the ground here in the Northwest."

He said he hopes it will lay the groundwork for future seasons where fisheries management is brought closer to home, with fewer and fewer decisions being made in board rooms in Ottawa.
"I believe we are going to move to a locally influenced and managed fishery," he said.

"I think we will eventually have a table set up in this region before the season starts and then works with DFO throughout the season to set how the fishing takes place. If we are moving that way, it is high time the federal government starts bringing in those stakeholder groups and starts listening to the advice being given to them to adjust their fishing plans," said Cullen.
"The general trend has been we have been cycling out of control.

"The federal government rarely knows how many fish are coming in and, in fact, the fishing seasons have been unmitigated disasters for the last number of seasons."

While he recognized some stakeholder groups have clashed in the past over fisheries allocations, Cullen argued that stakeholders do all agree that they want a sustainable fishery. If they focus on that, the decisions are usually self evident.

"If we are unable to come to some agreement over how to make this sustainable, we don't deserve to have the fishery and we can't complain about Ottawa management," he said.

"If we are unhappy with the way DFO regulates this fishery and the results that come from it, then we have to step up to the plate and put aside those smaller differences because, fundamentally, most people who are involved with the fishery agree they want a sustainable fishery and one that we can pass on that is healthier than we when we found it. Under those principles, the decisions become quite clear."

He added he is also asking the competition bureau in Ottawa to look into the pathetic prices commercial fishermen are getting for their product.

"It's ridiculous there is a near monopoly for buying fish on the West Coast and we are taking to the competition board about investigating. Is price fixing going on and if so why is the federal government allowing it to be happening?" he asked.

"It doesn't happen when selling crude or automobiles or gas, why is it allowed to happen for fish? There's a couple of fronts we are taking for this."

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