Friday, June 09, 2006

Fishing for Votes

The Honourable Loyola Hearn, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans for Canada and the regional minister for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador has come up with a great plan for protecting, promoting and preserving the last few cod left in the sea.

Fish them.

He's announced a recreational ("food") fishery where anyone can can go out and fish on any day during a five-week period starting August 1.

At the same time he's opened a commercial fishery where some 2300 fishermen in the province licensed with a boat under 45 feet will be able to participate in a "bay stock" fishery of 3,000 pounds each. But that's limited to each fishermen sticking to their own bay. (Good luck enforcing that.)

Let me see. . . cod is now running at about $0.40 per pound. So at 3000 lbs per boat, that means an income increase of $1200. That's per boat, not per fisherman and that's gross before expenses. Not a bad take for the privilege of competing in the great race to catch the last cod.

Some people like Jim Morgan and Sue Kelland-Dire are very happy that the people of this province have received permission from Minister Hearn to exercise their right to drive king cod into commercial extinction. In Sue's case, Hearn hasn't gone far enough although Morgan still has enough sense to recognize the possibility of poaching during the "food" fishery.

There's a couple of things to note about this:

  1. Cod stocks are widely recognized to be a precarious state. What would possibly justify fishing them?
  2. The amount of extra income from this fishery is marginal. Why would the Minister authorize it?
  3. The only way to renew the stocks, since you can't put more into the water, is to stop fishing them. Why let the people go after these cod stocks when we don't know the effects on the overall stocks of doing so?

The answer is easy - the minister is fishing for votes.

After making irresponsible remarks backing a food and limited commercial fishery while in opposition, he now feels obliged to carry that out in spite of best evidence that this will only hasten the total extinction of these stocks.

It's fish politics at it's best.

But when Jim Morgan calls for more science, remind him that a panel of scientists called for the cod to be listed as endangered. He fought vigorously against that. After all, if we declare cod endangered then we'll never be able to fish them again!

Clearly he only wants science that reinforces his short-sighted point of view.

The next time Sue calls Open Line or any other show and blames the Feds for all that ails the fishery, remind her that the Feds gave us the chance to catch more cod, after the scientists recommended against it, because we asked for it.

And when people on the street ask what happened to the stocks, tell them to look to Mr. Hearn for his inability to stand up to the fools of the world who are determined that the last fish out there be caught by a Newfoundlander or Labradorian.

R.I.P King Cod
We'll Miss You

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