Letters to the Editor -
An item that is in the news lately is that Ocean Choice International wants permission from the provincial government to export to China small yellow tail flounder, because with the labour cost in Newfoundland and Labrador it is not profitable to do so. Without this, the plant in Marystown will not be able to operate.
The problem is that O.C.I. is fishing that stock with trawlers, and we all know that trawlers are non selective in species and sizes.
It reminds me in my involvement, along with others, in the early '80s of the many days of travel and meetings trying to get the powers that be to stop the destruction of our cod and turbot fishery before it was too late. The thing that destroyed both species was, as fish got scarcer, we kept using smaller gear to catch smaller fish until there was very few breeding fish left. Plus, the trawlers kept targeting the last remaining cod at a time when they were spawning.
Therefore, the moratorium in 1992
Have we learned anything from past mistakes, I think not. I am sure that O.C.I. will get permission to do what they want by the Newfoundland and Labrador government because of a few jobs - it's the same old story.
I can remember when Vic Young, chair of FPI, was going to close the Trepassey plant because there wasn't enough fish to keep all their plants open. The federal minister at the time, Mr. Crosbie, gave FPI another 10,000 metric tonne of Northern cod, but the Trepassey plant did close and so did many others because there was no fish left to process.
I can remember Mr. Crosbie's statement when we lobbied hard for a lower quota, "I am not going to cut the quota and put thousands of people out of work." But it wasn't long before everyone was out of work.
I do sympathize with the people of Marystown, and I do have a solution to their problem - the size of flounder that can be caught can be done with gillnets using the size of mesh to select the right size that the plant can process profitably and the smaller flounder would escape and continue to grow. This would provide jobs for many years to come, and this stock could be fished with the inshore fleet.
It's time to look at the mistakes of the past, and plan for a sustainable future.
(Retired) Capt. Wilfred Bartlett