Jim Furlong: Tell me the old, old story

Published in the April 8-14,2018 issue


One of the problems with writing weekly as opposed to writing daily is that sometimes you get overtaken by events. It has happened to me dozens of times where I’d write some carefully thought out piece (more or less) about what may happen in our world only to find that before The Herald went to press events had changed and something happened that makes my argument a bit silly. 

Finally this week I caught a break. Just days after I was ranting about why we don’t need a food fishery or a sentinel fishery or to catch as much cod as we do, the federal government’s latest stock assessment was released and told us that what I was saying was right on track. Despite some 20 odd years of a cod moratorium or what passed for a moratorium …there’s no fish!!! So it was this week that Ottawa, through DFO, told us that the trend of cod stocks rebuilding is over and there has been a significant decline. What kind of decline? About 30 per cent in one year. 

Flapping their Gums

Now, here is what is fascinating and what brings out the cynical angels buried not that deeply in my soul. Over the past several days I have listened, like yourselves, to politicians and industry people and labour types flapping their gums about what the news of the vanished cod stocks means. It has been mostly a week of wonderful words. 

My favourite phrase from the week now gone is, “Sustainability of the stock has to be a top priority.” Really? Thank you for that. Who would have guessed? 

Well here we are again now, between a rock and a hard place. We know that territory well. The union and the fish processors had banged the drum for catch increases, but clearly that was a mistake for DFO to buy into that notion. 

That now begs the question of whether government, business and labour will do something besides make excuses to keep catching fish. The caplin stocks are falling and the shrimp stocks are falling and cod eat shrimp and caplin. You would think this would be a no brainer in terms of the next move, but things are never that easy in the Newfoundland fishery are they? 

Don’t Hold Your Breath

If you expect that logical steps will be taken in the face of the latest evidence, my advice to you is not to hold your breath. If I was government, and I’m not, I would stop catching cod. You can’t use the fishery and Employment Insurance as devices for delivering a social program. The fact we have so many people living in so many communities in Newfoundland is a separate problem altogether.

Watch now and see if the food fishery is affected. 

See if there isn’t an argument to keep cod quotas where they are and see if that oldest of excuses doesn’t raise its head, and that is that the science is wrong. 

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