Saturday, November 29, 2008

North coast visit a priority for new Fisheries Minister

Providing the drama currently underway in Ottawa doesn’t take her job away, Gail Shea the newly minted Minister of Fisheries and Oceans hopes to visit the North coast in short order to learn more about the issues of the Pacific fishery.

She outlined her thoughts after Nathan Cullen, the MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley spoke in the House of Commons about the state of the North Coast fishery and the crisis situation that the resources of the north coast face.

Cullen is hopeful that the Minister (if she’s still that by next week) will be visiting the North Coast in January to learn first hand of the troubles that face both fishermen, shore workers and plant owners up and down the coast.

For those looking for good omens and such, the new fish minister apparently likes to fish, a welcome change we suspect from some of the more recent holders of the job who seemed rather ill at ease not only with the industry, but the actual concept of throwing a line out in the water.

The Daily News featured the hopeful travel plans of Minister Shea as the front page headline story in Friday’s paper.

Gail Shea says she will come to Prince Rupert soon - maybe as early as January
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Friday, November 28, 2008
Page one

Following up on comments he made to The Daily News earlier this week, Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen stood up in Parliament yesterday to request that newly appointed Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Gail Shea make a trip to Prince Rupert.

Cullen informed the House of B.C.'s depleted wild salmon stocks and identified salmon quotas and Employment Insurance reform as the two most critical areas of change needed to assist fish stocks and industry workers.

"On the North Coast of British Columbia we have lost upwards of 80 per cent of our commercial fishing fleet in the last seven years," Cullen told Shea, a Prince Edward Island MP.

"We have watched the decimation of fish stocks and the mishandling of the entire industry by a department in which decisions are made by bureaucrats here in Ottawa while dozens of on-the-ground officers are being cut."

He went on to ask the minister if she was willing to consider the fundamental reforms that are required for the fishing industry, and whether she was willing to visit coastal communities like Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii to talk to the people affected by management decisions.

Shea replied that she is committed to visiting the West Coast "as soon as possible," and pointed to "sustainability, economic viability and consultation" as her "guiding principles" for managing her new department.

Cullen said yesterday afternoon that he spoke with Shea outside the House, and she again confirmed that visiting B.C.'s North Coast and talking to fishermen was a priority for her in the near future. Shea also told him she wasn't afraid to "shake things up" within the DFO, and run sustainable fisheries as part of a sustainable economy.

Following their conversation Cullen is now much more optimistic than earlier in the week, and said they both agreed that addressing Canadian fishery issues was far more important than political differences they may have.

"We're hoping for January, but we've got to work with her schedule and get her some time out there," said Cullen.

"She also likes to fish, so I've got to set up some fishing for her as well."

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