May 7, 2004
(Fisheries and Aquaculture)
Serious action on foreign overfishing needed for Canada to be taken seriously
Trevor Taylor, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, today commented on the Government of Canada’s new measures to address foreign overfishing in the northwest Atlantic.
In a news conference held on May 6, 2004, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Geoff Regan commented on his department’s assessment of 2003 fishing activity in the NAFO Regulatory Area (NRA). Based on available data, an estimated 15,000 tonnes of moratoria species were taken in 2003, a high percentage of which was a result of directed fishing by foreign vessels. The Government of Canada has announced it is taking "immediate and decisive action" in response to illegal foreign fishing on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. An additional $15 million was announced for 2004 to enhance Canada’s enforcement and surveillance program in the NRA.
"The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is, to put it mildly, extremely displeased by the news that such large quantities of moratoria species continue to be taken by foreign vessels," said Minister Taylor. "The circumstance surrounding the recent high seas blitz on Portuguese vessels notwithstanding, this only reaffirms the Province’s continued dissatisfaction with NAFO and undermines any progress made in dealing with certain foreign fleets in a multilateral process."
Foreign overfishing continues to be an issue of great concern for Newfoundland and Labrador. There has been an increase in reported infractions outside of the 200-mile limit, including but not limited to directed fisheries for species under moratorium, the use of illegal undersized gear, misreporting catches and failing to provide observer reports. Under current NAFO rules, member countries are responsible for enforcing regulations and prosecuting violations. This has repeatedly proven to be ineffective, as fleets from certain countries continue to blatantly disregard conservation measures and regulations.
"Unless flag states are willing to take serious action against vessels that engage in illegal fishing activity, the NAFO process will never work to protect and conserve straddling fish stocks," said the minister, who is currently in his district on the province’s Northern Peninsula.
"It is clear by the response of the Canadian Government that it is taking this issue seriously. We are particularly encouraged by the announcement that the government is seeking high-quality legal advice on a custodial management regime. This type of aggressive action is sorely needed," said the minister. "But let me be clear. We need a solution that will continue beyond an election year. This must be a final litmus test for Canada’s involvement in NAFO. The Government of Canada must fully avail of all options it has under other international agreements that it has signed on to. If we don’t use these legal tools, then we’re saying that multilateral agreements on foreign overfishing don’t work, and unilateral action is the only option to protect these species."
As a result of yesterday’s announcement, the Province is seeking a full and meaningful discussion with the federal government on Canadian custodial management of the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks. Meetings with key officials of member countries of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) are also being scheduled, at which the premier will discuss foreign over-fishing and responsible fishing practices outside of the two-hundred mile limit.
Media contact: Alex Marland, Communications (709) 729-3733
2004 05 07 3:05 p.m.