This week, DFO’s National Advisory Panel released their final report on the Marine Protected Areas. The report recommends that the federal government adopt international standards for conservation which will standardize restrictions amongst all MPAs in Canada. The report also recommends that other conservation areas (for example, marine refuges) will have more flexible conditions to meet the diverse circumstances of different regions.
As it stands, marine refuges in Newfoundland and Labrador restrict fishing activity while permitting other industrial activities such as oil, gas and seismic activity. These exceptions have long called into question the effectiveness of these closures and whether conservation goals would be met. Moreover, a lack of consultation with those who would be most affected by the closures has caused significant concern to fish harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“We have been very vocal on the double standard that exists in conservation areas allowing oil and gas while shutting out all fishing activity, and we formally submitted these and other concerns to the advisory panel. We are pleased to see the Panel’s recommendations offer some flexibility moving forward that will take into account the socioeconomic factors of conservation targeted closures,” said FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan.
Fish harvesters are great stewards of the ocean. Their survival is dependent on the harvesting of a vast number of species that reside in the waters adjacent to our province, and they recognize that a healthy marine ecosystem will return dividends to our communities for generations to come.
“Hurried timelines and a lack of consultation in the process of meeting marine conservation targets have understandably frustrated FFAW-Unifor members. This frustration was compounded by the fact that repeated requests for additional information to further clarify and support closures was never produced by the Department despite repeated requests,” added Sullivan.
The Panel addressed this concern and has recommended that future consultation be meaningful and noted that a “focus on reaching time-bound numeric targets may lead to “paper parks” that lack strong conservation standards, and that risks diverting resources from the establishment of meaningful MPAs and [other conservation areas].”
“We are hopeful that these recommendations will ensure there is no double standard with industrial activities permitted in marine conservation areas, and are also optimistic that consultations going forward will be meaningful to ensure the social, economic and cultural concerns of our members are reflected in future decisions,” concluded Sullivan.
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