Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

October 08, 2009 17:12 ET

Minister Gail Shea Dispels Myths About Amendments to the Convention of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Oct. 8, 2009) - Minister Gail Shea appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans today to discuss amendments to the 1978 Convention for the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO). Following the meeting, Minister Shea issued the following statement:

"We have made great strides at NAFO over the last few years. We have seen a dramatic improvement in compliance with NAFO rules and quotas in the Regulatory Area outside our 200-mile limit, and some stocks are now showing signs of recovery, including straddling stocks important to Canada's fishing industry.

The progress that we see today is a direct result of Canada's leadership in reforming NAFO's enforcement framework and rules in 2006. We now have an opportunity to build on this success to further modernize and improve the way NAFO makes management decisions for international fisheries.

NAFO is not the organization it was fifteen years ago when fish were traded with minimal consideration of impacts on other stocks. The amended Convention recognizes, for the first time, the need to incorporate precautionary and ecosystem-based approaches to fisheries management decision-making. This is a modern and forward-looking approach that Canada has implemented in its own management of its domestic fisheries.

To be clear, the amendments adopted by NAFO Contracting Parties in 2007 fully recognize Canada's sovereignty over fisheries inside our Exclusive Economic Zone. The amended instrument is a reflection of the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement in that it provides a Contracting State the option to request – if it is in its interest to do so - that a measure be adopted by NAFO for an area under the jurisdiction of that State. This provision was drafted and accepted by not only Canada but other coastal States like the United States. It is based on similar provisions already in place for some time in other regional fisheries management organizations, such as the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission. These existing provisions strengthen sovereignty. They do not weaken it.

Canada retains full control over resources in its own waters, and it will not be coerced or pressured into giving up this control by any NAFO member. To claim otherwise is simply fear-mongering.

Further, the new voting system contained in the amended Convention will enhance the protection of Canada's quotas of the NAFO stocks, which is a significant preoccupation of the Canadian fishing industry, as will the controlled system to address objections and disputes. The amended Convention limits objections to narrow grounds and requires a Contracting Party that objects to a conservation and management decision to clearly demonstrate the grounds for the objection and to set out alternative equivalent measures that it intends to take for conservation and management of the fishery in the interim. It also provides an active role for the NAFO Commission in trying to resolve the issue. Consequently, NAFO members will be held accountable for their actions so that we avoid these unnecessary and counterproductive situations – and reduce overfishing. The current Convention has no such mechanism.

Through leadership, international collaboration, and enforcement efforts at NAFO, Canada has achieved effective control over the straddling and groundfish stocks that are important for Newfoundland and Labrador and the Canadian fishing industry. This is custodial management.

The Canadian fishing industry and provincial governments were consulted extensively throughout the negotiations on the amended Convention.

In short, the amendments are beneficial for Canada and especially for the fishing industry of Newfoundland and Labrador, its economy and its people. Canada's fishing industry brings billions of dollars to the economies of our coastal communities. We are committed to the long-term viability of this industry.

No country can single-handedly and unilaterally ensure the sustainability of high-seas fisheries outside its own waters. Canada has international obligations to collaborate with other parties that have an interest in the NAFO stocks.

The fact is that we have a choice before us: accept the amended Convention, with all of the benefits that it offers us; or maintain the existing Convention, with all of its well-known problems. The amendments to the Convention were adopted through a negotiating process involving all parties acting in good faith. Opening up that process again would likely put the significant advancements we have gained in jeopardy, and could, in fact, result in concessions that do not serve Canada's interests."

Contact Information

  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa
    Scott Cantin
    Media Relations
    Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa
    Office of the Minister
    Nancy Bishay
    Press Secretary