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We must keep control of our fish stocks

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Considerable controversy has been raised over the recent news of the intention by Royal Greenland to purchase Quin-Sea Fisheries. However, the purchase of one company by another is a normal activity in our capitalistic economy. No one protested the purchase of Zellers by Target, or the recent takeover of Rona by the American chain Lowe’s, so why is there so much opposition to this purchase?

The opposition is due in large part to the current policies of our federal and provincial governments.

The federal government uses a quota-based protocol to manage most of our fisheries. A quota confers ownership rights of current and future shrimp, crab and fish harvests. There are quotas included in the Quin-Sea purchase. Those quotas represent the commoditization of what was once a common property resource.

In effect, the Danish government, which owns Royal Greenland, will acquire fishing rights and ownership of certain species within Canada’s 200-mile limit.

At the provincial level, our laws and regulations have the effect of granting a monopoly to certain companies and locations. Purchasing Quin-Sea will allow Royal Greenland to include itself in that monopoly.

It may be difficult in our capitalistic economy and under international trade rules to forbid the purchase of one company by another. To allow this sale and still not lose ownership of our harvesting industry would require the federal government to change the way we manage our fisheries.

If quotas are removed or reduced, the attraction for plant purchases by foreigners will be less and we would continue to maintain ownership of our fisheries inside of 200 miles.

Processing plants are corporate entities, subject to success and failure, buyout and merger. Our harvesting sector cannot be part of that corporate world because of its threat to the sustainability of the stocks. This surely must be one of the key lessons we have learned from the cod moratorium.

The provincial government should also remove all current regulations that forbid the establishment of new processing plants. Allowing new money into the processing sector could encourage innovation and growth in this sector.

I have advocated for a fishery management plan that would, in a number of fisheries, control the harvest by managing the effort.  This method is used in the harvesting of lobster and has been successful for over 90 years. Such a system would produce greater harvesting profits, improve quality and ensure sustainability. An additional side benefit would be that Newfoundlanders and Canadians would continue to have the sole right to the valuable fish resources of our province.

A good fishery management plan will maximize the profit to the harvester while ensuring the sustainability of the stock.

Barry Darby

St. John’s

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