Cost-cutting for at-sea observers criticized
The Nova Scotia government is criticizing the federal government's decision to stop paying for observers on fishing vessels — a move the federal government says will save $2.5 million each year.
This week, the federal government announced a series of changes to its management of Canada's commercial fisheries.
Most of those changes transfer costs and responsibility to the fishing industry, including a decision to no longer pay one-third of the cost of sea observers, starting in April 1, 2013.
Sterling Belliveau, Nova Scotia's Minister of Fisheries, said he opposes the "downloading" of costs.
"Management of the fishery is a shared responsibility between industry and the federal government," he told CBC News in a statement.
"Our department is concerned the federal government is downloading costs to fishermen for a service they are primarily responsible for."
The observer program, currently run by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, places certified private-sector observers aboard fishing vessels to monitor fishing activities, collect scientific data and monitor industry compliance with fishing regulations and licence conditions.
Right now, a sea observer costs the boat owner $300 per day. After April 1, the portion currently covered by the federal government — approximately $100 per observer — will have to be absorbed by boat owners.
A spokeswoman for Fisheries and Oceans Canada said the department is moving towards monitoring and auditing the program.
"As the fishing industry takes greater responsibility for conservation and stewardship, they will also assume a greater share of fisheries management costs, including all costs associated with fisheries monitoring programs, of which the at-sea observer program is a significant component," Melanie Carkner told CBC News in an emailed statement.
Other changes including requiring fishermen to pay for tags and log books and moving towards more multi-year quotas. After closing a number of its local offices, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is proceeding with plans to issue only online licences starting in the spring.