Fisheries expert calls for end of `subsidies'
CanWest News 12 August 2003

QUEBEC CITY _ The Canadian government should stop offering Employment Insurance benefits and other ``subsidies'' to keep people in villages where their livelihood was derived from the depleted fishery, University of British Columbia fisheries expert Daniel Pauly said Tuesday.

``Why should taxpayers' money be spent on keeping them there?'' Pauly said in a keynote address to the American Fisheries Society convention. He added farmers who no longer work the land leave for the cities ``and become bank tellers.''

Moratoriums on fishing northern cod and snow crab have hit fishing villages in Quebec and Atlantic Canada hard, but people who manage to work for approximately 10 weeks a year can qualify for employment insurance benefits.

``Why should public money be spent so people work for 10 weeks, so they can not for 42?'' Pauly asked in an interview Tuesday. ``Real people work 50 weeks. Staying in a village doesn't make sense when there are no fish.''

He said miners whose mines close move and immigrants, like himself, leave their native countries to move to Canada because economic opportunities are better here. ``Everyone has to move,'' he said. ``What is wrong with fishers?''

The Quebec government is looking into aquaculture _ the raising of fish, such as salmon, and shellfish like mussels and scallops, in a controlled environment as an alternative to the traditional fishery for outlying villages.

``We are going to pay to have an aquaculture industry,'' Pauly said, questioning whether locating aquaculture ventures in the Gaspe and the Lower North Shore of the St. Lawrence River makes sense.

``You are talking about a floating pig farm,'' he said, explaining that aquaculture operations can generate waste and pollution, as well as parasites that can harm native species.

Pauly instead favours closing designated areas to fishing to allow natural fish species to re-generate, explaining that before the advent of sophisticated technology to detect and catch fish, the northern cod could regenerate on its own.

If designated areas were totally closed to fishing and the technology used for fishing was restricted, stocks would recover, he said. ``When you fish everywhere, you catch less,'' he said. ``When you fish less, you catch more.''

Pauly added that Canada should take the high road, establishing designated no-fishing zones, as an example to other maritime countries.

Doing so, he said, would give the Canadian government the moral authority to suggest that other countries do the same.