DFO on collision course with organized fishers - New “core” licensing criteria must be changed

February 12, 1996

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) will be on a collision course  with Canada’s organized fishers if it does not make some immediate changes to its new Atlantic licensing policy according to François Poulin, President of the Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters (CCPFH).

The new policy denies priority status to large numbers of full time fishers in the Scotia Fundy region and along the lower North Shore of Québec and contradicts the proposals for professional recognition put forward by organized fishers in both these areas.

“How can someone who has never baited a hook or hauled a net in his life sit there and tell a full time fisherman that he is not regarded as part of the core fishery?”

“What the Ottawa fish bureaucracy doesn’t seem to understand is that they have absolutely no business deciding who should or should not be recognized as a professional fisher. This is something that fishers and only fishers can do.”

“It wouldn’t occur to the Departments of Justice or Health to one day decide who is a legitimate lawyer or doctor.”

“The new licensing policy shows once again how removed the Ottawa bureaucracy is from the day to day reality of fishing and how obsessed it is with pushing people out of the fishery.”

“It is as if they have some arbitrary target number for the so-called fishery of the future and they are using licensing policy to run up the body count”, Poulin said.

In a strongly worded letter to the new Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Poulin said the DFO’s most senior bureaucrats either don’t understand the concept of the professional fish harvester or are unwilling to change their paternalistic attitudes towards fishers.

“If the DFO’s so called “fishery of the future” means we’re heading towards a new age of paternalism then they’ll be going there alone.

“Fishers are fed up with the arbitrary decision making that continues to plague Canada’s fisheries management and want to have a hand in making policy. It’s time for the DFO to start working with fishermen instead of against them.”

You can see the media release in its original format here.