07 October 2008

Taylor's self-made hard spot

Provincial acting fisheries minister Trevor Taylor is in a hard spot.

You can tell he's in a hard spot because in order to criticize a recent fish quota trade deal, Taylor wound up resorting to an argument favoured by people Taylor usually criticizes harshly,  people like Gus Etchegary and Sue The Vanished Hydroqueen:

Taylor said the deal hearkens back to prior trade agreements, in which Canada traded its fisheries stocks for economic advantages.

Yes, it's a sign of complete bankruptcy when your argument is merely to repeat the same discredited fables as Gus, Sue and others.

Taylor called the deal tragic.

It's hard to see how it is tragic.

In exchange for allowing Americans to fish a portion of the Canadian quota for yellowtail flounder outside 200 miles, a portion not usually caught anyway, Canada gains.  It gains because:

-  the deal secures American support particularly for other conservation measures;

-  the deal includes Canadian access to over 600 tons of deep water shrimp which will be fished by a Newfoundland and Labrador company (and processed in already under-utilized plants);  and,

-  the deal includes an increased by-catch for American plaice which will allow the Newfoundland and Labrador harvesters to fish the yellow-tail flounder quota more efficiently and to a greater extent.

Sadly, the fishery is as misunderstood as the offshore oil and gas industry.  The result is that completely bogus arguments like the ones offered by Etchegary and Taylor are accepted as fact.

What is tragic is that Taylor is considering increasing plant capacity in a province in which there is way more capacity than existing quotas. Fish plant workers are making as little as $8,000 in some cases from their labour and must scramble to find other work in order to qualify for a pittance in employment insurance on top of that. The existing plants are in many respects  nothing more than stamp factories and Taylor is seriously considering making a bad situation demonstrably worse.

Taylor and the cabinet to which he belongs know what needs to be done.  They are - in effect - abrogating their responsibility to reorganize the fishery in a way that corrects the human tragedy and the economic tragedy in the province's fishery. Taylor and his colleagues are doing nothing more than following the less than sterling example of some recent fisheries ministers, like John Efford, who during his tenure increased the number of plant licenses and contributed to creating the current mess.

Such is the scope of the tragedy in the fishery.

Such is the scope of the tragedy that Taylor, who started his political career showing some promise, has become just another politician mucking about in the fishing industry for political purposes. 

A shuffling of the province's cabinet will evidently produce no positive change in the province's fishing industry.

That's another sign of the tragedy.