Islanders call for two federal fisheries ministers

  • Feb. 6, 2006 2:00 p.m.

Some islanders are calling for two federal fisheries departments — one for the east coast and one for the west coast — following the appointment Monday of a Newfoundland politician as the new Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.
The new minister, Loyola Hearn, is a former teacher with four years experience as Newfoundland’s minister of education. In Ottawa, he served for several years as the Conservatives’ fisheries critic.
That experience did not particularly impress Masset troller Ron Bielby, who said it would have been better to see someone familiar with the BC coast and its issues at the head of DFO.
“I guess that’ll never happen,” he added. “They should have two ministersÂ… It makes so much sense.”
Having one fisheries minister is “like one teacher running a whole school – you just can’t do it,” he said.
Mr. Bielby, who’s been trolling out of Masset for 22 years, said there are many important fisheries issues brewing at the moment.
Among them is the prospect that the new minority Conservative government may be more receptive than the Liberals were to lifting the oil and gas moratorium on the west coast. Mr. Bielby said oil and gas drilling would be devastating for the coast and the fishery.
Then there are the regular fish issues: quotas, allocation, monitoring, and the fact that it is getting harder and harder to make a living as a commercial fisherman.
Mr. Bielby has started taking clients out sportfishing when he’s not trolling, because he has a family to support.
“It’s getting down to the crunch, where we’re going to be begging to go fishing,” he said.
Gary Russ, former fisheries chair for the Council of the Haida Nation and a commercial fisherman, agreed that it was a disappointment to see a Newfoundlander appointed minister.
“I’ve never heard of the guy before,” Mr. Russ said. “I’d hoped it would be someone from the west coast and someone with a bit of knowledge of this fishery.”
The biggest issues on the west coast right now are individual quotas and the trend to giving industry the responsibility of monitoring, he said.
Mr. Russ is very much in favour of the idea of two fisheries ministers, and said he has been advocating it for many years.
Masset councillor Ed Woode agrees.
“I’m still of the opinion that the prime minister should appoint a minister for the east and west coasts,” he said, adding that this is his own personal opinion, not that of Masset council. “It’s time British Columbia was represented better.”

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