More than half the fish and wildlife officer jobs in Labrador are vacant — and the provincial government says retention and recruitment is an ongoing challenge.

'For whatever reason, recruitment and retention seems to be tough.' - Andrew Parsons

"We're working hard trying to recruit to fill these positions. In fact we've been bringing in staff from other regions," Andrew Parsons, minister of Justice and Public Safety, told CBC's Labrador Morning.

"Offers have been made, but it's a challenge and it's got to be hard on the individuals working there ... and it has an effect on the system, no doubt."

Parsons said the goal is to fill all the jobs, but right now there are seven out of 13 positions vacant.

He added that all of the positions in the Happy Valley-Goose Bay area are currently empty. 

"For whatever reason, recruitment and retention seems to be tough, I can't say why, but it is an issue," he said.

The issue of recruitment isn't only with wildlife, said Parsons, but also in a number of areas such as the court system and health care.

He hopes to make a trip to Labrador in February to visit facilities and meet with workers.

"One of the things we're trying to do is to figure out why, and what efforts we can take to help alleviate this issue," Parsons said. 

"I really want to get on the ground and meet the people in the systems, see the facilities and the infrastructure … I think that's a better opportunity to learn."


Parsons said the vacancies are due to retirement and people out on leave.

'The work is still there that has to be done.' - Andrew Parsons

Like any organization or operation, he said, vacancies increase the workload and stress on the remaining employees, something Parsons said he's taking seriously.

"The work is still there that has to be done … when you take positions from other places to fill in, there's a stress that goes on that, so the stress is likely felt throughout the system."

Parsons said having temporary replacements for these positions also means there are fewer people with a strong knowledge of the area, which he believes is very important when it comes to fish and wildlife.

'On the ground knowledge, a local knowledge is key I think.' - Andrew Parsons

"They all have a skill set, but on the ground knowledge, a local knowledge is key I think," said Parsons.

"They know the area ... knowing habits, behaviours, activities, locale, geography ... obviously they're good qualified people but having local experience obviously makes a difference."