April 30, 2003
(Executive Council)


The following statement was issued today by Premier Roger Grimes. It was also read in the House of Assembly:

Federal decision to close cod fisheries

On Thursday past, April 24, the Government of Canada made announcements that have serious consequences for this province as a whole, but with devastating consequences for individuals and rural areas that rely on our fisheries.

I am referring to the announced closure of the Northern cod fishery in 2J3KL and the Gulf cod fishery in 3Pn4RS, as well as the $25 million for a so-called "action plan" to assist individuals and communities impacted by the closures.

These were made-in-Ottawa decisions that have a significant impact on Newfoundland and Labrador. They were taken and announced unilaterally and arbitrarily. And they demonstrated a contemptible disregard of advice provided earlier from informed, knowledgeable stakeholders.

In view of the seriousness of the short and long-term consequences of these announcements for this province, we immediately requested meetings with the Prime Minister and appropriate ministers in Ottawa to address our concerns with both announcements.

This week, I � along with the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs � met in Ottawa with Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Manley, Fisheries Minister Thibault, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Stephane Dion, and ACOA Minister Byrne. Yesterday, I also met with the Prime Minister.

The decision to close the 3Pn4RS cod fishery in the Gulf flies in the face of scientific advice provided to the federal Fisheries Minister by the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council. The minister ignored the scientifically-founded recommendation of the FRCC to keep that fishery open, but reduce the quota to 3500 tonnes.

We want that fishery open, consistent with advice provided by the FRCC. In all of our meetings, we called upon the Government of Canada to reverse its decision on this stock and to establish a fishery. We advised federal ministers that the people of this province would stand for nothing less.

Beyond a viable Gulf cod fishery that is based on scientific advice, additional short-term measures and a long-term adjustment program must supplement the paltry and totally inadequate compensation program announced by Minister Byrne last week.

In particular, immediate action is needed to address the serious concerns of those individuals whose eligibility for Employment Insurance expires in just a few days and for those whose eligibility expires at the end of June.

For many of them, their predicament is compounded by the fact that ice conditions in the Gulf and along the Northeast coast have delayed their participation in any fishery this year. For them, EI benefits must be extended.

The federal government also has a responsibility to dramatically expand the adjustment package that was announced.

A meaningful, long-term adjustment program should, at the very minimum, include early retirement and licence buyout measures, as well as a strategy for economic diversification and growth initiatives. Short-term make-work projects provide no measure of dignity or effective income support for those affected by the closures. This requires a long-term strategy. And that is what we demand.

The federal decision on cod stocks has resulted in considerable turmoil and unrest in our province. Many individuals are experiencing an exceptional level of frustration with the Government of Canada, to the point that many are questioning Newfoundland and Labrador�s place in the Canadian federation.

Vessels from Newfoundland and Labrador traditionally harvest 75-80 per cent of the northern Gulf cod stock, and it is the communities of southern Labrador and northwestern Newfoundland which critically depend upon this resource.

In this light, this government finds it totally inappropriate that scientific assessment of this stock is conducted by Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) Quebec Region in Mount Joli, Quebec.

Given the importance of the Gulf cod fishery to Newfoundland and Labrador, it is our strong view that scientific assessment of this stock be conducted in this province by DFO�s Newfoundland Region.

Simply put, the very least the federal government must do is move the scientists it utilizes to assess this stock here to Newfoundland and Labrador -- close to the fish they are employed to count, and closer to the people who count on the fish.

This week�s meetings in Ottawa are over. But our efforts to address all these issues with the federal government will continue. This Government will not stand idly by and let the people of this province bear the brunt of failed federal fisheries management.

Over the coming weeks I assure this Honourable House that this government will take every action within its means to ensure that an appropriate northern Gulf cod fishery occurs consistent with scientific advice. We shall also continue to insist that those impacted by federal mismanagement of the fishery receive the compensation and adjustment assistance to which they are rightfully entitled.

2003 04 30                                        2:25 p.m.

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