Friday, July 24, 2009

Fisheries issues percolate again this summer

The ongoing crisis in the Pacific fishery once again plays out this summer, as the Northern View outlines with a story posted to its website on Thursday, local commercial fishermen took their concerns to the Prince Rupert offices of the Department of Fisheries.

Thursday's item provides some background on the protest of about 60 commercial fishermen who expressed their concerns over the fate of the gill net fishery this summer, that after DFO announced the closure of the fishery yesterday and suggested that there would not be any announcements regarding its fate until next week.

After the meeting with local officials, the timetable for an announcement was moved up to this Sunday, a move that at least provides the local fishermen with a sense that their concerns are getting a review.

The Northern View article (read it here) traces the fate of the gill net fishery over the last decade, which has seen it drop from over 1400 active participating boats to but 258 now. The fate of the fishery overall is also one of concern for those that make their living from the resource, whether it be on a boat, or working onshore at one of the local plants, the nature of the industry has changed dramatically over the last ten years.

It's an issue that could use a little attention from the Federal Government, which over the years has been perceived as constantly mis-handling the file, and in a story in the Thursday Daily News, it seems that the sense of urgency here on the North coast isn't shared in Ottawa.

Thursday's Daily News provides some details on attempts by Skeena Bulkley Valley, NDP MP Nathan Cullen, thus far unsuccessful, to bring the Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea to the region to learn first hand of the issues that continue to be of concern.

So far, despite the comments of her public relations handlers out of Vancouver of her interest in our issues, there isn't much in the way of evidence that she's as concerned as might be suggested.

The best way to learn about a problem and how best to address it is to assess it in person, until the Conservative Government and its Fisheries Minister take on that task, sooner rather than later, the perceptions that they don't have a handle on the file will no doubt continue.

By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Page three

She'll be comin' round, the mountain - NOT.

A request by MP Nathan Cullen for current Department of Fisheries and Oceans Minister, Gail Shea, to visit the North Coast has yet to find a receptive ear.

According to a Vancouver-based DFO media representative, Shea is not planning any trips to Prince Rupert in the near future, which will likely leave many local fishermen scratching their heads and asking why not.

"She is always interested in hearing the views of fishermen and people in their communities. In the limited time she has been a minister and with the limited time she is able to leave Ottawa, she has traveled to both the east coast and the west coast, and talked to harvesters, processors in the fishing industry,' said Terry Davis of the DFO.

The fishing industry has been hurting in recent years on the North Coast, with many fishermen no longer able to earn the incomes they once did. With an expected sockeye salmon run of 1.5-to-2 million salmon, commercial fishermen are allowed a 20-to-30 per cent catch rate.

According to the DFO, the numbers are being constrained due to concern for a number of Skeena sockeye and chum stocks.

Cullen hoped that by having the new DFO minister meet with fishermen as soon as possible, new facts coulq be interpreted in managing the west coast fisheries.

Davis said that Shea would still be pleased to meet with fishermen, but in the interim she encourages fishermen to make their views known to the DFO.

"She will be looking for opportunities to meet with the folks on the North Coast, but I don't have a specific time frame that I can quote," said Davis.

Cullen said he was very disappointed with Shea. "She had committed to me that she would visit the people on the North Coast during her last visit to B.G. We did everything we could to get her to fulfill her commitment, but she refused," said Cullen.

He criticized the fact that although announcements have been made for the west coast fisheries, none have involved commercial fishermen.

"In terms of help, the stimulus funding announcements in general have not even been worth the paper they have been written on."

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