Sci Station Canada

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Canada moves to protect world fish stocks

last week the Fisheries Minister was reported as saying that there will be a small cod fishery this spring in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where a year ago his predecessor expressed doubt a commercial harvest would reopen in his lifetime. Newfoundland and Quebec fishermen will be allowed to land 6,500 tonnes of cod in the northern and southern sections of the gulf ... A moratorium is still in place for northern cod.

He followed this later in the week with an announcment of expanded Canadian patrols to "police" the moratorium on dwindling fish stocks on the Grand Banks off the Newfoundland and Labrador coast.

"It is our hope that harassing these international, modern-day pirates on the sea with further boardings and inspections.. will help to keep them away." In the past, European fishing nations have ignored quotas set by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO). The quotas are set because of concerns over low stock levels. Canada hasn't arrested those on board the boats. It doesn't have the jurisdiction outside of a 320-km fishing limit. However, new rules give Canada the right to seize vessels outside that zone if it suspects illegal activity."

Although it has been suggested that these moves have a political motivation there should be no doubt that the dangers of commercial extinction of fish stocks are very real and scientifically verified. Take for example Last years study that showed that 90 percent of all large fishes have disappeared from the world's oceans in the past half century. Or look back to the furore in Europe over the EU's attempts to regulate the fishing inustry in 2002.

Unfortunately in any discussion of issues such as this where the solution to environmental concerns involves a threat to peoples livelihoods, it is very hard to remain unemotional. On the one hand we have radical "Greenies" [no denigration intended] who believe vehemently in the protection of the environment and on the other Trade Associations that see conservation as the commercial destruction of their industry. Any answer needs to take into consideration the concerns of both sides as is suggested by the recent call for the creation of an ocean policy trust fund to funnel billions in oil and gas revenue toward state and federal environmental programs, ocean education, science and exploration.


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