Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Minister Gerry Byrne took to social media after hearing back from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) about his plan to attend a DFO Science meeting on Atlantic salmon this week.
Byrne said he was told thanks, but no thanks.
“Who exactly is ‘invited’ to attend DFO NL Atlantic salmon advisory table? Never in 22 years of public life before!” he wrote in one of several related posts to Twitter Monday evening, along with the exact text of a message apparently from the federal department staff, signed “Science Branch, Fisheries and Oceans Canada,” stating a seat could not be offered at the stock assessment meeting.
The statement did acknowledge Byrne as academically trained in biology, something the minister highlighted in his arguments to DFO.
Byrne asked that any rejection of his participation be put into writing.
“DFO acknowledges I am trained academically as a biologist. They acknowledge I have a keen interest in science and in the Atlantic salmon’s status, but yet they deny me as minister a seat at the table,” he said, speaking with The Telegram following his social media posts.
He said it’s up to DFO to explain why the decision to keep him out makes sense, given that more than one group, including the Citizens’ Outdoors Rights Alliance (CORA) — a group including recreational anglers, conservation and business groups interested in Atlantic salmon in Newfoundland and Labrador — were also excluded from the meeting.
As of The Telegram’s deadline, it remained unclear if any of the groups and individuals denied a seat in the meeting had participated in the last meeting.
But Byrne said such groups are the local stewards of the resource.
“And we do hear there are folks who will be flying down from Moncton to participate in these meetings to pass judgments on Newfoundland and Labrador’s resources,” he said, adding that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are the greatest conservationists of Atlantic salmon in North America, because of the numbers of salmon produced in provincial waters.
“Yet DFO seems more intent and more interested in listening to outsiders — outsiders from jurisdictions who have actually failed in Atlantic salmon conservation — as to how and what are the best methods of preserving our resource here at home,” he said.
Byrne said he has attended the release of stock status reports as an MP with the federal government, but did not respond directly when asked if he had ever before attended this particular meeting for Atlantic salmon.
The province does not have jurisdiction in this case, but the provincial minister said the province has earned a seat at the table based on participation in education and enforcement programs, aimed at protecting the health of the stock.
The Telegram attempted to contact DFO late Monday and will update this story online at thetelegram.com as more information becomes available.