Will study small-scale fisheries in Coast of Bays
Sharmane Allen at the UN conference in Rome.
Sharmane Allen, a former resident of Harbour Breton, found herself a long way from Newfoundland in May as she was in Rome, Italy attending consultations hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on small- scale fisheries (SSF).
Ms. Allen was asked to be part of a civil society delegation at the international meetings by the Canadian Fisheries Research Network and was a delegate with the World Forum on Fisheries People.
She said, “As a PhD student at Memorial University studying SSF in Newfoundland and Labrador, this opportunity was invaluable in many ways.
“The United Nations contends that if the world does not recognize the importance of SSF and protect their existence, the future of this sector is bleak as it is facing a number of common problems worldwide.”
These problems include lack of recognition of the economic, social and cultural importance of SSF to sustainability of rural communities; encroachment of coastal fishing grounds by industrial fleets; loss of quota and licences; barriers to entry associated with the costs of buying licences and quotas; and insistent pressure to leave the industry.
In many parts of the world, SSF are critical because if people can’t fish they literally cannot provide food for their families.
While this situation may not exist to that extent in developed countries, Allen said, “SSF are vitally important to the future of fishing communities throughout Canada as was acknowledged in the opening remarks of Canada’s representative at FAO meetings”.
“The Rome meetings highlighted that we to have an open, frank and inclusive talk about the future of SSF and to understand the consequences of losing this industry.
“To my mind this conversation can’t wait in Newfoundland and Labrador because SSF are shrinking every year. Many fishing communities are reaching the tipping point of no return. Fish harvesters, politicians, community leaders, youth, businesses, and anyone interesting in the survival of rural communities in this province needs to become engaged.
“ Organizations such as Fish, Food and Allied Workers, Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Rural Secretariat should jointly lead this process in cooperation with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture. We need a solid and sustainable plan for SSF in this province that thinks outside of the confining and negative box that has been decades in the making,” Allen said.
“For years SSF have been neglected and marginalized, and thought of as a burden to society - a relic of the past. We can have a vibrant SSF in the future if we start talking seriously about the benefits that could be derived from the industry and asking if we are maximizing these benefits under the current management regime. The fishery needs to be talked about in the context of local and national consumption, food security, tourism, etc.”
The United Nations guidelines also support a human rights based approach to managing SSF.
Allen said, “This would be revolutionary in fisheries worldwide given decisions affecting SSF would have to factor in human rights. For certain it would raise interesting questions pertaining to the human rights impacts related to such things as rationalization polices, quota transferability and access to fishing grounds.”
Allen encourages Canadians to pay serious attention to the SSF guidelines and whether the federal and provincial governments will endorse and implement them.
The next round of negotiations on the guidelines is slated for February of next year and the United Nations is expected to adopt them in July 2014.
Coast of Bays
Allen said that the SSF is very important to the economy in the Coast of Bays region. The total landed value over the 1998-2011 period averaged $11 million annually, with the inshore (under 40’) fleet accounting for 68 percent and the nearshore fleet (40’-65’) accounting for the remainder. Using DFO’s data, an estimated 419 enterprise owners and crew participated in the Coast of Bays’ fishery in 2011.
Allen said that we need to pay attention to the direct and indirect benefits this creates.
“This sector creates a lot of employment in the region and fishing incomes are spent locally and regionally to purchase groceries, fishing supplies, building materials, fuel, vehicles, etc.”
However, Allen notes, “It’s not all about money. SSF are a vital link to the very existence of fishing communities – they’re the reason that fishing communities exist.”
But Allen cautions that the number of inshore fishing enterprises in the COB region has decreased substantially in recent years. According to DFO’s catch and effort data there were 166 active inshore enterprises in the COB in 2011. In 1998, there were 289. In recent years there has been additional reductions due to the ‘Enterprise Combining Policy and the Lobster Enterprise Retirement Program’.
Allen said, “My research is interested in understanding the SSF in the COB region, its contribution to the economic, social and cultural well-being, and the impact of declining capacity.
“ I am interested in exploring what’s in store for the future of this sector and indeed the region’s fishing communities. I expect to be in the field in spring 2014, once I finish my comprehensive exams. The research will be part of the international study initiative Too Big To Ignore and I am very excited to begin the field component.”