Nova Scotia

DFO research cuts worry fishermen

Budget cuts at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are making Nova Scotia fishermen queasy.
DFO has told its employees the department will be smaller and responsible for fewer things. (CBC )

Budget cuts at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are making fishermen queasy.

The department expects to complete a $56.8-million budget-cutting plan by 2014. Officials warned that the department is winding down or scrapping "non-core programs."

Fishermen like John Levy, who often work with fishery scientists, are worried about what that means for them.

"We don't know the magnitude yet of how far reaching these cuts are going to go," said Levy, who fishes out of Chester, N.S.

Levy is president of the Fishermen and Scientists Research Society, whose members gather samples and data to supplement federal scientific surveys. He said fishermen are worried that any cuts to fisheries science will have a big impact on fishing communities, since scientists recommend catch levels.

"If they aren't going to have the resources to actually go out on the water and actually see what is going on, they are still going to make a decision and they are not going to be right," he said.

Levy said one pollock fishery nearly shut down after scientists underestimated the stock.

Patty King, manager of the research group, said there's a lot of uncertainty right now. She said she heard one particular program was about to be cancelled, then later found out it was saved. The program allows fishermen to use their boats to gather data in spots where large government science boats can't go.

King wonders about another program to measure juvenile lobsters. She said it's not officially on the chopping block, but the funding runs out next March.

"At this point we don't know what if anything is going to be replacing that," she said.

Whatever happens, King said, it will be a matter of finding ways to do the most scientific research with less money.