Political balloon or sensible plan?
The federal government promises to open, in the sense of de-icing, fishing havens in northern New Brunswick earlier this spring, in order to hasten the start of snow crab capture and avoid interactions between crabbers and right whales.
Toachieve this, the Canadian Coast Guard, which is responsible for this de-icing responsibility, will use the private sector. This is an admission from this division of Transport Canada working with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
First, it is an admission of bankruptcy over a two-year commitment by Fisheries and Oceans Canada that every effort will be made to de-ice New Brunswick’s ports as soon as possible in the spring. .
However, in April, this same Coast Guard was almost happy with its “performance” of preventing floods and, incidentally, de-ice fishing harbors.
This performance, however, was characterized by two rather spectacular failures. On the one hand, the crab fishery in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence did not begin until May 3, and on the other hand, the village of Matapédia was hit by a useless and preventable flood, the 20 and April 21th.
Matapedia is located approximately 200 kilometers from the main fishing port, Shippagan, New Brunswick, which the Coast Guard was attempting to de-ice to allow crabbers on the Acadian Peninsula to go to sea.
It must be understood here that the crab fishery, a big money deal in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, does not start there until the New Brunswick crabbers, more numerous than the Gaspésiens and the Madelinots to evolve, are there. ice captives.
This situation has prevailed for decades, even though Gaspé and Magdalen Islands are ice-free three to four weeks before New Brunswick’s, and the overall quota of crab to be caught is divided into individual quotas. A catch beginning earlier in Gaspésie and the Islands would not penalize Acadian crabbers.
In the days leading up to this flood, the Coast Guard had established a “strategy” that remains a mystery to all those who tried to follow it. Stuck between two fires, the legitimate grievances of the citizens of Matapedia wanting to avoid a catastrophe like that of 1994, and crabbers anxious to go to sea to capture a large proportion of their contingent before the arrival of right whales in mid-May , the Coast Guard waltzed awkwardly between these two missions, to escape them.
Since April, the observers of the fishing scene and the citizens of the village of Matapédia have then attended a slow stripping session.
The Liberal MP for the riding of Avignon-La Mitis-Matane-Matapedia, Rémi Massé, first praised the Coast Guard for its interventions in late April, before slowly admitting that the Coast Guard was under-equipped to fulfill his mandates, an admission clearly expressed, finally, in July.
Probably heated by the many crabbers living in her riding, the member for Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine and Minister of National Revenue, Diane Lebouthillier, was the exception, admitting from the end of April that the Coast Guard was under-equipped to fulfill his responsibilities.
The maritime environment was fresh in memory of last fall’s muddle on the St. Lawrence River and estuary, where the Coast Guard failed to collect its buoys before winter. Some of these units have still not been recovered, 10 months later.
This year, after a 2018 year free of right whale mortality in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, eight of these endangered mammals were recovered or observed adrift. This is not the hecatomb of the 16 carcasses found in Canadian waters in 2017, but it’s still too much.
While waiting for the results of the necropsies performed on the carcasses in good enough condition to be examined in depth, the fishermen, including the crabbers, are fed up with being singled out as the first potential culprits.
Their dissatisfaction is justified because, for the last three years, the authorities, the Coast Guard as well as Fisheries and Oceans Canada, have failed to allow them to begin catching before the arrival of right whales.
They themselves suggested in 2018 and 2019 the use of private vessels and boats to de-ice New Brunswick’s ports. The authorities have not moved, probably because a gesture to this effect would have come back to recognize the under-equipment of the Coast Guard.
Who pays the bill? Fishermen and citizens of Matapedia in the first place. It will remain to be seen if politicians will also pay a price for the inertia of recent years.
The use of private icebreaking units is similar to a pre-campaign announcement. The Canadian government has been stingy with comments on how these units will be deployed. The impending campaign will be an excellent opportunity to verify whether it is strictly a political balloon or sensible planning.
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