Big strides in fishery

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Dear editor,
Canada has the longest coastline and arguably the best seafood products in the world, but we are time and again being out-performed by smaller countries with less access to the resource.

I have been the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans for only nine months, but I have met with over 300 individuals and stakeholder groups to get a sense of how things are running with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and there has been one consistent demand: everyone is demanding change in how we manage the resource.

I continue to hear that Canadian fishermen remain among the lowest earners in Canada. Despite our natural access to the resource, Canada's fishery is becoming a smaller and smaller player on the world stage.

We are no longer seeing the abundance of fish that our country enjoyed in the past, so we can no longer rely on the quantity of this renewable resource to create economic prosperity; better management practices are required.

Our government has been making strides in helping the fishery. For example, we have made the largest investments to small craft harbours in a generation and we are working to ensure a sustainable future for Canada's fishery. However, in the absence of being able to create more fish in the sea, we must find ways to make the fishery more valuable, profitable and respectful of the resource for future generations.

The World Bank estimates that, globally, if fisheries management practices were improved, we could capture a significant part of the $50 billion that is lost annually from this industry. That means more jobs and more economic growth in our coastal and rural regions. In these challenging economic times, this is an opportunity we cannot afford to waste.

Now is not the time to shutter the debate on how to improve how we do business. We are engaging with all stakeholders across the country to explore how we can better manage Canada's fishery for the long-term use of the resource and how Canadian fishermen can earn more from it.

We welcome all views from all Canadians to participate online at: http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/future-avenir/index-eng.htm

Keith Ashfield

Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Organizations: Fisheries and Oceans Canada, World Bank

Geographic location: Canada

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