05 March 2006

Hearn confirms custodial management dead as Connie policy

Canadian fish minister Loyola Hearn announced Friday that Canada would be working with other states "to oversee, in co-operation with the United Kingdom, the development of a model regional fisheries management organization (RFMO) within one year."

Now let's get this clear, people.

Hearn spent the better part of the last year campaigning for Canada immediately and unilaterally to take control of the waters on the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks. He repeatedly lambasted his Liberal predecessor for doing nothing. to fight the evil foreigners who are fishing unregulated just beyond the grasp of Canadian officials. Hearn has been joined in his crusade by news media, ordinary blokes on the street and the odd character like Gus Etchegary who must be trying to salve a guilty conscious these days by criticising other people for the sort of stuff his old company used to do: overfish.

Anyway, this regional fisheries management organization idea comes out of an initiative begun in 2003, when Geoff Regan was the fish minister and Loyola was warming a seat over by Stephen Harper in the Opposition. In fact, the whole high seas task force that led to this announcement began when Loyola was still back in Newfoundland battling Brian Tobin.
Canada's contribution will be to oversee, in co-operation with the United Kingdom, the development of a model regional fisheries management organization (RFMO) within one year. While the name of the project may not mean a lot to the average Canadian, ultimately it's about cracking down on illegal fishing, ensuring offenders are caught and dealt with severely.

The model RFMO will clearly outline what sanctions would be taken against offending vessels and a consistent approach regarding inspections. These and other standards will provide the criteria on which the performance of RFMOs, including the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), can be independently reviewed.

"Arriving at this model with a member state of the European Union provides the opportunity for the international community to show its commitment to results;" stated Minister Hearn. "I hope it will lead to an acceleration of the NAFO reforms we're already seeking."

While the High Seas Task Force is separate from NAFO and other RFMOs, its work places international pressure on these organizations to seriously improve the way they manage and protect the world's fish stocks. Because the timeline for the development of the RFMO model is one year, Task Force officials will be able to bring the model forward to their member RFMOs within a short time-frame.

"I'm pleased that Canada has played a pivotal role in the High Seas Task Force to put an end to overfishing in international waters. All involved ministers clearly believe the time for action is now. I fully agree with this view," added Minister Hearn.
The funky thing here is that while Hearn is talking, what he is talking about is stuff that he either had no hand in or criticised as being ineffective and a waste of time when he was on the Opposition benches.

In the greater scheme of things, we should actually be cheering Hearn on. After all, he has abandoned the unworkable ideas he tossed around before he got genuine responsibility. Now he talks sense and isn't for doing insane things like sending out Canadian warships to fire at Spanish, Portugese and other fishing boats.

There are some people who think little of the consequences for cavalier action on the high seas, but those people seem about as ill-informed as someone who thinks they are in Newfoundland when in fact they are just south of the Magdalens. Proponents of custodial management as a viable international solution to foreign overfishing are on about the same ground as seal hunt protesters. While their motives may be good, their facts are askew and it is doubtful that their real motive is the same as the apparent one.

But I digress.

There should be no doubt now that Loyola Hearn has abandoned custodial management as the centerpiece of his fisheries policy. Heck it isn't even a part of his fisheries policy now that he is the federal fish czar.

He's decided the sensible way to go is to pursue the policies he used to criticise. Hearn's conversion is the important thing; a confession of previous errors is unnecessary.

Would though that others can't see the sham of custodial management for what it is.