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New fisheries act debated

CANADA - North Island fisherman and others met with a Nova Scotia MP last week to discuss the proposed new fisheries act, Bill C-45.

Peter Stoffer is the NDP MP for Sackville-Eastern Shore in Nova Scotia and is the federal NDP critic for fisheries, shipbuilding and veteran affairs.

He visited Port Hardy, Port McNeill, Alert Bay and Sointula last week with Vancouver Island North MP Catherine Bell to gather input from fishermen about the new bill.

“The minister is right that the act needs to be modernized,” said Stoffer. “But this bill changes the whole aspect of fishing.” Stoffer says unless significant changes are made, he will fight to have the bill thrown out.

“This act will privatize fish resources which right now are a common property asset, meaning they belong to all Canadians,” said Stoffer. “It will be more difficult to get into the fishery and it offloads responsibility from the government.”

John Duncan, former Conservative MP for Vancouver Island North and former Pacific region advisor for Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), agrees the fisheries act needs to be changed.

“Yes, I think the fisheries act needs to change but I’m not married to the terms of the bill,” said Duncan in a phone interview with the Gazette.

Despite some misgivings, Duncan says the bill has many positive aspects for fishermen.

“There’s a lot of things in the bill that will remove ministerial discretion and lengthen the term for the commercial fishing sector to go to the bank for financing,” explains Duncan. “A big problem in the past was the ministry giving extraordinary licences to their friends. This act puts licensing at arm’s length with an independent licensing board. Many people have argued for many years that that is the way to go.”

Source: North Island Gazette