Fisheries Minister Hunter Tootoo hears about salmon catch ban
Federal fishieries minister also hears about changes to temporary foreign workers program on Atlantic tour
Fisheries and Oceans Minister Hunter Tootoo expected to hear about the federal government's ban on killing salmon caught in Maritime waters during a visit to New Brunswick.
Tootoo visited Moncton on Friday to fishery stakeholders, First Nations leaders, provincial Fisheries Minister Rick Doucet and others.
Last April, the federal department imposed a mandatory hook-and-release program for all salmon caught in Maritime rivers, meaning no anglers could keep any salmon caught.
"I've got a feeling that's going to be one of the topics we're going to talk about," said Tootoo.
"The whole purpose of this trip for me is to be able to get out there and hear what the concerns and issues are from the stakeholders to be able to help me make a more informed decision as we move forward."
In his Atlantic travels, Tootoo has also heard concerns about changes to the temporary foreign workers program, which fish processors have relied on to hire workers in fish plants during peak season.
"It's not my thing to change, but I certainly heard issues and concerns with the processors here in New Brunswick," he said.
Consensus, science key goals
Tootoo wants to bring a consensus-building approach to the department.
The common goal that everyone seems to have is conservation and protection of the stocks to ensure the sustainability of the industry.- Minister Hunter Tootoo
"My mandate is very clear … to work with the provinces, territories, indigenous people and other stakeholders to better safeguard our three oceans. It's a new approach, an approach I believe is inclusive and will lead to better results," Tootoo said at a news conference.
After visiting Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, Tootoo says a theme is already emerging.
"One of the common things that I've been surprised by ... is whether it be industry, whether it be an environmental group, whether it be oil and gas or whether it be government the common goal that everyone seems to have is conservation and protection of the stocks to ensure the sustainability of the industry," he said.
An ability to find common ground is something Tootoo hopes to bring to the department from his past experience as an MLA for nearly 15 years in Nunavut.
"I served as a regular member... as well as a minister and speaker there and the way our system works is on consensus — sitting down, raising tough issues and dealing with them to move forward," he said.
'Sound decisions based on sound science'
Tootoo promises to make "sound decisions based on sound science."
"We're reinvesting $40 million into ocean science and the other thing that I've learned ... is all of these groups do their own science so I'm meeting with them and saying look, we can all work together," he said.
"For me it's important to be able to get out and hear first hand what the stakeholders and the people that depend on the fisheries for their livelihood and the challenges and issues that they face," Tootoo said.
As an Inuk, he says he understands the challenges faced by first nations, and he hopes to work closely with indigenous people in Atlantic Canada.
"I met with aboriginal leaders in Halifax two days ago and I'm meeting with Burnt Church folks this morning," Tootoo said in an interview on Information Morning Moncton on Friday.
"There's been a lot of frustration that they've faced over the years and they're eager to work together collaboratively to move forward...and I recognize that we're not always going to agree on everything."