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March 16, 2012
For immediate release

Province concerned federal plans to change the fishery will harm the Island

Fisheries, Aquaculture and Rural Development

The province is very concerned that federal plans to change Canada’s fishery will harm Prince Edward Island, says Fisheries, Aquaculture and Rural Development Minister Ron MacKinley.

“The fishery is the economic backbone of many rural communities,” said Minister MacKinley. “The industry employs approximately 9,000 Islanders. It is a vital part of our economy. We are very concerned about plans to change the fishery in a way that threatens the livelihood of Islanders who make their living from the sea.”

Joining Minister MacKinley in expressing frustration about the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) report are Charlie McGeoghegan, MLA for Belfast-Murray River and Buck Watts, MLA for Tracadie-Hillsborough Park.

Recent comments in the media by DFO Minister Keith Ashfield indicate that changes are being considered to policies that have been in place for 30 years. The fleet separation policy prevents a company from both catching and processing fish, and the owner-operator policy requires the license holder to catch the fish.

“These policies protect our inshore fishery from being fished by large corporations, and the removal of these policies would be devastating for our economy, our communities and our people,” said Mr. McGeoghegan. “We need these policies in place to maintain a strong Island fishery.”

The report also suggests that fewer young people are entering the fishery and that it is time to modernize the industry.

“Our Future Fishers Program is very successful attracting a new generation of young fishers to the industry,” said Mr.Watts. “I am in touch with our fishers across the Island and there are many young people who are involved in the fishery who hope to one day have a fleet of their own. These changes could put our young fishers out of work.”

The federal review does not acknowledge the efforts of the provinces in creating stability and a brighter future for fishers, said Minister MacKinley.

“We introduced low-interest loans for fishermen to provide financial support during a time of low landings and higher costs,” he said. “We have supported rationalization efforts and we are helping to manage the resource in a sustainable manner through initiatives such as our Lobster Resource Monitoring Program.”

“There is no disagreement that more change is needed to ensure the future stability of the industry,” said the Minister. “We all want a strong industry to pass on to the next generation, but there are different views on how we reach that goal and it needs to be reached through federal, provincial and industry consensus.”

Minister MacKinley has written to DFO Minister Keith Ashfield expressing deep concern about the contents of the “The Future of Canada’s Commercial Fishery” and he is requesting further consultations to determine the next steps in this process.

“The Federal Minister must realize that you can’t run the fishery from Bay Street,” he said.

Media Contact: Kim Devine
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