Mixed-up conservation priorities

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As I sit here this Sunday morning looking out my window at the ocean, I can hardly contain my anger to know that there has been a ship spilling oil just seven miles from where I live and the federal departments of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment haven’t done a damn thing to remove oil from the Manolis L., a ship that went aground on Blow Hard Rock near Change Islands in 1985.

Over the years, there have been ducks, murres and seals with oil on them dying in this area. I have given oiled birds to Canadian Wildlife to examine. Still there was nothing done about this ship.

Just this last week, there were reports of oiled eider ducks. My crew and I saw, four days ago, a flock of eider ducks over 30,000 feeding just six miles from this site. The site where the ship sank is a prime feeding area for these birds.

Bad hunting rules

Since Newfoundland and Labrador joined Canada, the federal government has adopted a migratory bird plan for all Canadians that doesn’t fit the harsh conditions of the North Atlantic.

It has robbed me of eider duck hunting because I can no longer hunt eider ducks from a moving boat. This was a traditional way of hunting.

We also hunted from the shore, but since I’ve gotten older, I can't scale the slippery, ice-covered rocks and it’s also very dangerous. We have a quota of six ducks per day — what is the difference if you kill them from a moving boat or not?

You will not kill more birds from a moving boat than you will if you’re not moving, or if you shoot at them on the rocks. Remember: you have a quota of six ducks.

The government is always changing something and it is not all for the better, like making steel shot mandatory on the ocean. The shot becomes rusty and infection sets into crippled birds, killing them. Also, steel shot gets rusty in the casings. Lead shot heals over in crippled birds.

Targeting the wrong things

Over the last years, Canadian Wildlife has targeted my son Richard because he is a good hunter and a good trophy for them to catch to justify their existence.

They got the services of the Canadian Coast Guard to drop Canadian Wildlife officers to camp all night on a island overlooking Blow Hard Rock where all this oil was coming from, but they were not interested in oil — they were interested in my son Richard and his three hunting buddies, hunting two kilometres away from where they lay in wait for them to hunt early in the morning.

Richard and his buddies have gone to trial and have been found not guilty, but Canadian Wildlife and the Crown weren’t satisfied with this. They appealed, just because Richard had all the birds, guns and lunch bags in his truck.

This is a very common practice for one person to take all the birds for cleaning to a shed while others are gone home for a lunch, etc.

This has cost my son close to $80,000 in fighting this in court and a new trial has just started. The court has tried to plea bargain with him if he would plead guilty.

This is why I am angry this morning: the federal government has put my family through hell in the courts and it’s got nothing to do with conservation.

You have ignored the big picture; this oil has killed thousands of birds, seals, and God knows about the damage it has done to our fishing grounds.

Will federal officials be charged for knowing about this oil spill since 1985 and the things it has destroyed?

Not likely.

 I would like for the Environment Department to clean up this oil, take it out of this ship. I would also like an investigation into why this has not been a priority. I am available to talk to anyone about this.

John Gillett is an inshore fisherman

 from Twillingate.

Organizations: Canadian Wildlife, Canadian Coast Guard, Environment Department

Geographic location: Change Islands, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada North Atlantic

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Recent comments

  • Maurice E. Adams
    May 09, 2013 - 07:22

    If I recall, a few years back the federal government paid millions for the refoating and removal of an Irving tug that had sunk in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and that had been leaking oil. Is the NE coast coast of NL and the Grand Banks not part of Canada, and entitled (and needs) the same response? Where is the Coast Guard?