Fisheries, Food and Allied Workers boss Earle McCurdy has rightfully turned thumbs down on the proposal to bring in foreign vessels to catch yellowtail and allow 75 per cent of the resource to be exported without benefit to the province.
Mr. McCurdy understands that this proposal brings us to within one step of the end — a point where no benefit would be derived from our fish resources.
The reality remains that the rural economy of this province rests principally on making the best long-term decisions to rebuild and revitalize the fishery.
Unlike many groundfish resources, yellowtail flounder is a relatively abundant resource on the Grand Banks which is in a very healthy state. For Canada, its quota share is about 35 million pounds.
Most of this allocation is awarded annually to Ocean Choice International by virtue of the offshore enterprise allocation system. This system provides resource access, but it does not have established benefit requirements attached.
In the case of other natural resources, governments require that benefits be derived by way of investment, employment, harvesting or extraction royalties, processing, value-added, etc. Governments now need to modify policies to adopt such principles for our fishery resources. Otherwise, companies will harvest the resource for little or no public benefit to maximize their enterprise returns.
The current proposal clearly leads to this outcome and that is why Mr. McCurdy has shown leadership in disapproving of it.
The proposal before government does not merit approval. It falls well short of the benefits criteria that should be applied to resource access of this nature.
The reason why this resource has not been utilized for many years is due to the disjointed structure of the industry as it is not economically viable. It is similar to so many issues in the fishery that remain unresolved because we refuse to adapt and deal with the real issues we face. Yellowtail is but another example.
It represents another significant opportunity that we do not appear to want to resolve for long-term benefit.
The yellowtail resource offers real opportunities to reinvest and rebuild our rural economy.
There are real alternatives to harvest this resource through new investment; there are real opportunities to process all of this resource in local plants; and the resulting products can be marketed internationally.
The reality is, however, that we must reconfigure these activities and do things differently.
Resource users must be prepared to invest and provide reasonable benefits to the economy or, if they choose not to pursue alternatives, then others must be provided that investment opportunity.
The time has come to redevelop this industry rather than give away our resources for little or no benefit. Governments need to invite proposals to utilize the unused quotas, approximately 75 per cent or 12,000 tonnes.
This resource can be harvested and processed for substantial economic and employment benefits that can assist to rebuild our rural economy.
We should not dismiss these opportunities.
The government rejected a similar proposal just a short time ago, and it should maintain consistency and do the same now. There are much greater benefits to be derived than those currently proposed.
Gabe Gregory writes from
Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s.