July 14, 1995 Halifax Herald
In frustration with their seemingly nonchalant attitudes towards the fact that a very productive and valuable natural food resource was being destroyed before our eyes, in two previous columns I leveled some very harsh criticisms at the politicians and bureaucrats who are charged with the responsibility of managing the Atlantic fishery for us. For those criticisms, I make no apology; they were well deserved. To me, for Canada to have permitted the near and wanton destruction of a natural food resource, by an irresponsible minority of fishermen possessed by the demon greed, which was rich enough to feed millions of people is a sin of unpardonable proportions.
I voiced my frustration with their inaction in my column of February 10, by suggesting that it was time for Fisheries and Oceans Minister Brian Tobin to stop emulating the do-nothing stance of his predecessors, and to get up off his duff and begin to do something constructive to prevent the total demise of the fishery. Since then he has stood up, removed his coat, and joined in a fight to save the resource. Although this course is long overdue, its better late than never.
In the first round of the fight, he took on the Spanish, and to a lesser degree, other European fishermen, who have for decades thumbed their noses at those who preached conservation. To be fair, we also have to mention that, in the past, there was a fair share of Canadian fishermen who did the same. However, to see Tobin go nose to nose with the European Union, caused by his action of ordering the arrest of a Spanish trawler in international waters - which was later exposed to have violated almost every rule of conservation -- was a welcome sight to these tired, old eyes. Imagine, Canadians actually standing up for their rights and, for a change, telling other countries that we won't allow them to trample all over us anymore. Unbelievable!
During the confrontation, as part of the Canadian efforts to sway world public opinion in our favour, the performance Tobin and Premier Clyde Wells put on at the United Nations in New York was commendable. Displaying in New York Harbour an illegal net, which was seized from the arrested Spanish trawler, was a public relations coup.
In the business of promoting a cause, creating a favourable public perception of one's actions is the best way to win a victory. In the case of the fisheries confrontation, Canada's public relations effort was carried out with polished professionalism by Tobin. From my perspective, the one negative note was that the remaining four Eastern Premiers, Catherine Caulback, Frank McKenna, Jacques Parizeau and John Savage, did not see fit to journey to New York with Tobin and Wells and do their share to promote the cause. Did they forget that the fishery is almost as important to their provinces as it is to Newfoundland?
With the over fishing and illegal fishing aspect of the problem being addressed in a responsible manner, the minister announced on June 28th his intention to come to grips with another controversial and major problem for the fishery, the ballooning seal population. Anybody who believes that addressing this major problem isn't a priority for us is in need of a reality check. The out-of control growth of the population of these animals is preventing a cod stock recovery - they are consuming approximately 7 million tonnes of fish a year! In this time of shortages of adequate food supplies for millions of humans, this consumption by seals of enough fish stocks to provide each person on Mother Earth with at least two nutritious meals on a yearly basis, is morally unacceptable and thus indefensible!
Even with the actions taken, the full recovery of the Atlantic Fishery is still decades away; however, Tobin has got it, at long last, going in the right direction. In heading in this direction, he will find that there will be opposition from those who are still in search of immediate profits and who say by their actions, in trying to continue with the rape of the resource, to hell with tomorrow. And he will also find that there are many radical animal rights activists who will oppose, on unreasonable principles, any attempt to constructively manage the seal population. However, the main concern here is to rehabilitate a renewable food resource. It can be done, and I feel quite certain that the forceful effort now being put forward by Tobin's department will draw and keep the support of an overwhelming majority of Canadians.
I would like to end this column by saying to Tobin that it was a proud moment for all Canadians when you stood up and took a stand against the irresponsible destruction of our fishery resource. In future years, as the fish stocks rebound from near extinction, your efforts will be remembered and appreciated. Thanks, Hon. Brian Tobin, for a job well done!
Daniel N. Paul