Hunter Tootoo, federal fisheries minister, visits P.E.I.

Federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Hunter Tootoo visited P.E.I. Thursday, meeting with fishermen, industry and provincial officials.

'I think we had the minister's ear,' says P.E.I. Fishermen's Assocation president

Federal Fisheries Minister Hunter Tootoo says his government will allocate quotas based on science, not politics. (CBC)

Federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Hunter Tootoo visited P.E.I. on Thursday, meeting with P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan, provincial fisheries officials and members of the P.E.I. fisheries industry. 

Tootoo is on an introductory tour of Atlantic Canada, which included visits to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. He's been in the job two months and wants hear first-hand what's important to the fishing industry.

"I've been fishing my whole life," said Tootoo, a former businessman with no background in commercial fishing.

"Us in Nunavut, just like the people here in Atlantic Canada, depend on the sea for our livelihood, and what I think I bring to the table is a different perspective," he told CBC News after the meeting, which included a lunch with P.E.I. oysters.

P.E.I.'s main fishermen's group said the meeting with Tootoo was positive, and it's nice to have a fresh face.

"I think we had the minister's ear as far as the issues that we brought up, so I thought it was a good meeting," said PEI Fishermen's Association president Craig Avery. 

Those issues include changes to the temporary foreign worker program to allow seafood processors to hire more workers, and getting a bigger share of halibut and tuna quota for Island fishermen. 

Tootoo promises 'science-based decisions'

"There's lots of halibut in our waters. We have all kind of tuna in our waters, and our fishermen are tied up to the wharf most of the season when they're there," said Avery.

The challenge for Tootoo is Newfoundland has also asked for quota increases.

"That's one thing that I've found out in my tour is that, you know, everyone, every single person or body out there feels that they don't have their fair share of the quota," said Tootoo. 

"We're going to be looking at the science and make science-based decisions and working through the advisory groups in each of those areas for their recommendations."

Five years ago a panel of independent Canadian scientists recommended bluefin tuna be listed as endangered. That decision still sits with the Minister's office. Tootoo says they'll be reviewing that science as well. 

With files from Laura Chapin


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