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Speaking Notes
The Honourable Roger Grimes
Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador

Release of the White Paper on
the Joint Management of
Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries

May 26, 2003

Media Centre, St. John's

Good Afternoon,

Today I am announcing the release of a White Paper on Joint Management of Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries.

As you are aware, on April 24, the Government of Canada announced the closure of cod fisheries in 2J3KL (Northern cod) and 3Pn4RS (Gulf cod).

This decision was taken with no prior consultation with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, nor with the people directly affected. Moreover, in making this decision, the federal government ignored the stated willingness of the province to work with the Government of Canada to develop reasonable and appropriate alternatives to fisheries closures.

In making this decision, the federal government also disregarded the recommendations of the Newfoundland and Labrador All-Party Committee on the Fishery and the scientific advice of its own Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (FRCC). Both the All-Party Committee and the FRCC provided the Government of Canada with a path to rebuild these stocks while maintaining limited commercial fisheries.

This decision represented a last straw for many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. The decision dictates the urgent need for a fundamentally different approach.

In response, the provincial government, supported by Newfoundland and Labrador MPs, and the people of the province, has made representation to the federal Minister of Fisheries, the Prime Minister, other federal ministers and the federal Liberal caucus, to have this decision reversed. For the most part, we have been ignored. Harvesters and processors have also made their clear and unequivocal opposition to the closures known to the federal government. They too have been ignored.

On May 14, the House of Assembly unanimously approved a resolution calling for federal-provincial negotiations leading to the establishment of a joint management regime over fisheries adjacent to Newfoundland and Labrador. The federal government has chosen to interpret the resolution as a power grab by the province, an attempt to position ourselves to catch more fish. The reality of course, is that we want to co-manage the resource, to ensure that this type of situation does not arise again.

In the last half of the last century and continuing to today, this province has seen a prosperous and vital industry, key to our social, economic and cultural well-being, reduced to collapse through mismanagement. From the early 1990s, the fishery has been transformed from a dependence on groundfish to a more diverse utilization of less abundant species such as shrimp and snow crab. The fishery is smaller, less labour-intensive and localized in fewer communities. Nonetheless, it remains the most important industry in our province.

Successive provincial governments have watched with increasing frustration from the sidelines, lacking any meaningful input or authority over fisheries resources, as these resources have been depleted. The province has not quietly acquiesced in these events. Some form of joint management has been sought by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and advocated by various independent bodies since the late 1970s. All have been met with rejection, dismissal, inaction or silence by the federal government, a trend that continues today.

Despite the federal government’s reluctance to seriously consider the views of the province with respect to the resource, it is important that the provincial government continue to advocate sound public policy and a willingness to work cooperatively toward the achievement of effective management of the fishery resource. Hence, the White Paper we are releasing today.

The division of fisheries management responsibilities and authorities between the province and the federal government can and has fostered inconsistency, conflict and unpredictability for both investment and economic planning. Through the Fisheries Act of Canada, the federal minister has significant authority and discretion over virtually all resource and harvesting matters. The province is vested with the right, through the constitution, to manage processing activities only.

Our proposal for joint management seeks to eliminate policy duplication and conflict, as well as to bring an appropriate and necessary balance to national and provincial interests in the management of stocks adjacent to our shores.

We are proposing shared and equal joint management of fish stocks adjacent to the province through a Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Management Board (CNLFMB). Authority for the board would be enshrined in enabling legislation passed by both orders of government. In this regard, the proposed provincial legislation is contained in the White Paper. Consistent with the unanimous resolution of the House of Assembly on this matter, the board and its authority would be enshrined in the Terms of Union. To accomplish this, an amendment to the Constitution would be required.

The proposed board would promote long-term sustainability of adjacent fisheries, conservation of fish resources and habitat, and understanding of ocean ecosystems. The board would also promote recognition of the historical and current socio-economic dependence of communities on fisheries.

A key function of the board would be to implement fair and equitable principles to govern the allocation of resources, recognizing the traditional and internationally-used principles of adjacency and historical dependency, as well as the economic dependence of resource users on fish stocks.

The board’s responsibilities would include but not be limited to conservation and rebuilding plans, consultation and fisheries management, and fisheries science. The current responsibilities of both the federal and provincial governments for harvesting and processing respectively, would in effect, be ceded to the board. In general terms, the board would be responsible for all aspects of management of adjacent fisheries, including regulatory management and development of policy regarding inspection and enforcement responsibilities of the provincial and federal governments.

In this regard, enforcement functions could remain within the respective governments, with general policy coordinated by the board. The province would be responsible for the enforcement of processing regulations and quality standards, while the federal government would maintain its current enforcement role.

Under this proposal, many aspects of oceans management would appropriately remain under federal government control. The province recognizes Canada’s international commitments and obligations which must be fulfilled at the national level. The federal government would retain jurisdiction over international negotiations, surveillance, international enforcement, port access, transport and international trade.

The proposed board would be comprised of seven members, with three members appointed by each government and a chairperson appointed jointly by both.

The board would follow management policies and principles established by both governments. The chairperson would have the deciding vote in the event of a tie. Should both governments disagree with a decision of the board, both governments would have to agree to veto or refuse a decision. "Fundamental decisions", such as those relating to the opening or closure of a fishery or a conservation plan, could be reversed only by either the board itself or by a joint decision of both governments.

The board would operate at arms-length from both governments. Government input would be provided in the development of guiding principles and policies in the initial design of the board, but the board would establish its own operating procedures.

To support the board by providing the necessary scientific research and advice, we are proposing that the current scientific function of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans be moved to a new entity: the Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Research Council. The council would report directly to the board and would be responsible for all scientific research currently undertaken by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in adjacent waters.

This proposal for joint management has the potential to create a fair, equitable and transparent fisheries management regime which will benefit Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador, and ultimately all of humankind through the effective management of the fisheries resources adjacent to this province. It is the most effective way to achieve responsible fisheries management and economic development.

Integration of federal and provincial fisheries responsibilities through a jointly managed Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Management Board would reduce federal-provincial conflict over fisheries policy, provide a stable framework for resource management and industry investment, allow the province to incorporate consistent fisheries policy into its implementation of broad economic and social plans and remove the potential for arbitrary or inconsistent fisheries management decisions.

Nor is this proposal intended to exclude the interests of other provinces or those with historic or other rights to fish in waters adjacent to Newfoundland and Labrador. The proposed joint management regime would establish basic rules and procedures for stock allocation and protect access for adjacent and traditional resource users. It would explicitly recognize the common property nature of the resource and the federal responsibility to ensure that the resource is appropriately managed on behalf of all Canadians.

Federal management of fisheries has simply not worked in the best interest of this province or the adjacent fish stocks. It is this province’s strong view that recovery of the resource and a sustainable fishery will never be achieved under the current management approach. We must have constructive changes, soon, so that better decisions can be made in the future.

I believe that this proposal can be that constructive change, and in that spirit, I invite the federal government to engage in meaningful and constructive dialogue. We have serious problems in our fishery. Today I am offering a serious solution and I expect and demand that the federal government give us a hearing.

The people of this province deserve an opportunity to assess and understand this proposal. We will provide that opportunity. Accordingly, later this week, Ministers Jones and Lush will outline plans for a series of roundtables to be held across the province involving key stakeholders.

As well, effective immediately, the White Paper will be available on the government web site and hard copies will be provided on request.

A properly managed fishery, and we believe this proposal will result in just that, can contribute to the economic and social well-being of Newfoundland and Labrador in perpetuity. The wealth generated by the marine resources in our waters can contribute to this province and this country long after oil and mineral deposits have been consumed. Our renewable marine resources must be protected and encouraged to grow. It is our duty, and the duty of the government of Canada, to preserve these resources for current and future generations of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, for Canadians, and for humankind.

Thank You. 

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