Fisheries Minister Darin King. - Telegram file photo
It's a daily frustration for Fisheries Minister Darin King: being held responsible for things that aren't his fault.
This weekend, when he sits down with Keith Ashfield, his federal counterpart, King said he's going to try to take some more responsibility.
"Ideally, yeah, I'd like to have a lot more control over quotas," King said. "We tend, sometimes, to be really left out of the discussion when it comes to that yet it has a direct effect on the Department of Fisheries here and on the province."
A desire to get some control over what happens on the water isn't exactly new for the provincial government. But King said he believes there's currently an appetite on the part of the federal government to talk about it.
King said he's constantly hearing from fishermen and other members of the industry about issues such as on-the-water regulations, start- and end-dates for seasonal fishing and other "red tape" that could be changed.
"I mean, I could spend my time being frustrated all day long because I'm always trying to put out fires and defend myself as minister and the government, because we tend to get blamed even though it's a federal issue," he said. "It's always a balancing act to try to explain to people who's responsible to what in the industry. And you know, more than half the time the gripes and the complaints and the challenges that people have with the fishing industry are not provincially regulated - they're federally regulated."
Liberal fisheries critic Jim Bennett also has some suggestions about what King should talk about during his meeting with Ashfield on Sunday.
In a recent letter to King, Bennett called on the province to start pushing for an Atlantic Canada marketing entity to help sell seafood.
Marketing is often seen as the panacea in the fishery, to help combat low prices and market volatility.
In his letter, Bennett argues that the province should be marketing its seafood under a Canadian label to capitalize on the nation's positive international reputation. "I don't care if you've got a Mountie on it, a beaver, a maple leaf or whatever - it should be one label for Canada," he said. "I think people look at Canada as a favoured nation from all over, and if it's Canadian, I think it will be seen as much safer than Chinese."
Such a marketing entity might not be greeted well by the large processors, Bennett said, but it would help the smaller players, and be good for the industry overall.
King said he wouldn't necessarily be opposed to the idea, but his main focus is on marketing centred around the province.
"I really think Newfoundland and Labrador first of all has to focus on what we have here," King said. "We're competing with everybody. You know, if we're catching codfish here and they're catching codfish in Nova Scotia, then we're competing against Nova Scotia as well."
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