January 17, 2018, ST. JOHN’S – Recently announced marine refuges have left many in the fishing industry questioning the efficacy of the closures. FFAW-Unifor is concerned that marine refuges announced by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in December will restrict all fishing activity, yet oil and gas exploration activities will persist.
“Any closures intended to focus on marine conservation must restrict all other marine industrial activities. We cannot ask fish harvesters to accept the closure of an area to fishing activity in the name of conservation while continuing to allow oil and gas exploration in that same area,” said FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan.
Over 8400 km² of the Fisheries Act closure called the Newfoundland Northeast Slope does not contribute towards marine conservation targets due to four existing oil and gas exploration licenses. Further reductions to the targets are likely should additional oil and gas exploration take place.
FFAW-Unifor supports the goals of marine protected areas, however DFO’s approach of pushing forward with the 2017 process despite repeated requests for additional consultation, transparency and supporting information is unacceptable. DFO held consultations with FFAW-Unifor’s Inshore Council and industry representatives on a number of occasions, the last of which was held on December 7. The maps presented in the final meeting were not those presented in the announcement on December 21. FFAW requested a more inclusive approach to consultations, however DFO failed to adequately communicate with affected stakeholders by going into in the communities where people are most affected by these closures.
“These area closures were pushed forward despite a lack of evidence that the objectives will be achieved. Most concerning, oil and gas and seismic activity will continue in these areas, calling into question whether these closures will truly achieve their conservation goals,” concluded Sullivan.
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