Nova Scotia

N.S. demands answers on fisheries modernization

Nova Scotia's government is calling on the federal government to explain whether it will maintain policies protecting inshore fisheries as it seeks to modernize Canada's commercial fisheries.
Nova Scotians in the fishing industry fear that Ottawa will cancel its fleet separation policy, which keeps big fishing companies out of the inshore fishery. (CBC)

Nova Scotia's government is calling on the federal government to explain whether it will maintain policies protecting inshore fisheries as it seeks to modernize Canada's commercial fisheries.

"The DFO document speaks about sustainability, economic viability and predictability but leaves questions unanswered," said Sterling Belliveau, the provincial Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

A review paper on modernization, released by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, has been a source of concern for fisheries groups who are worried big fishing companies will no longer be kept out of the inshore fishery.

The discussion paper makes no mention of policies known as owner-operator and fleet separation, used to prevent large companies from buying up and controlling inshore quota, licences and processing.

Fleet separation prevents a company from both catching and processing seafood, while the owner-operator policy requires the fishing licence-holder to catch the fish.

"These policies are very important to our coastal communities. I will be asking Minister Ashfield how these long-standing policies will fit into future management of the Atlantic fisheries," Belliveau said in a statement to CBC News.

A spokesperson for Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Keith Ashfield said Monday he had nothing to add to remarks made last week.

Ashfield has refused to say whether the policies will remain.

In Ottawa, the federal NDP said the omission of the policies is both deliberate and ominous.

Peter Stoffer, the MP for Sackville-Eastern Shore, said the region's lucrative lobster fishery is at stake. He called it "the last great independent fishery that we have."

Fisheries groups release response document

"What will happen is the corporate fleet will take over and follow the sequence, nothing stopping that corporate fleet from selling their interest lock, stock and barrel to any entity in the world," Stoffer told a news conference on Monday.

He predicts coastal communities will wither.

"I don't know for the life of me why the Conservative government of Canada has such a hate on for independent fishermen and their families," Stoffer said.

Meanwhile, a coalition of 33 fisheries groups from Atlantic Canada and Quebec released a 25-page response to DFO's modernization document.

"The department’s initiative is a barely-veiled attack on the policies that protect self-employed, independent fishermen and a justification for hobbling even further Canada’s dwindling fisheries science capability," the group said in a release.

They claim DFO is "biased against small businesses in the fishery and in favour of large corporations," fearing the department is clearing the way for "fish processors and other investors to get their hands on valuable lobster, crab and shrimp licences."

"Fish companies have been trying to gain access to these licences for years," the groups said in their joint release.

The two ridings in Nova Scotia with the largest inshore fleets are represented by Conservative MPs Gerald Keddy of South Shore-St. Margaret's and Greg Kerr of West Nova.

Keddy office's told CBC News the MP was not available for an interview and Kerr's office did not respond.

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