Bonne Bay fishery – deja vu

It appears from what you read, hear and see that humanity is on a path of self destruction intent on destroying the very environment that allows life to sustain itself.  This was most evident these past few weeks in BonneBay.

Most nights presented a light spectacle that would rival the glow of some of the greater cities in the world.  The bay was lit by an armada of fishing boats using the most modern of technology and high density lighting to attract the fish.  These seiners encircle the schools of fish (mackerel and herring) using powerful vacuums to suck them aboard their boats.  Such systems are not known for their selectivity, one can only imagine what else that is caught in their vortex.

This endeavour is not unique to BonneBay, and if multiplied in the bays and harbours around Newfoundland and Labrador, it is quite imaginable the destruction to the whole marine environment.  This is happening just a few short years after the devastation caused to people and communities by the collapse of the cod fishery which brought rural Newfoundland and Labrador to its knees.  Is there anyone thinking about or looking at the future of this province and life without any fishery?

Where are the scientists, the fisheries bureaucrats, the politicians?  Where are those responsible for the Park?  If it were some poor person attempting to catch a cod for supper, the whole weight of the Federal and Provincial governments would descend on them with the gravest of consequences.  Yet, this intensity of harvesting (it is not fishing) is apparently allowed and tolerated without a whisper of dissent.  It is obvious to anyone that it will only be a short time before there will be a crisis in these fisheries; if it is not here already.

We have recently heard much debate in the media about the proposed changes in NAFO about allowing European management in our two hundred mile limit.  Yet such a limit to protect fish stocks will not matter, if there are no fish to protect.  Every year since the declaration of this limit in 1977 fish stocks have been declining.  Maybe it is time we started looking in our own back yards, or should I say, rural waters and harbours.  Does the very last fish that swims have to be caught to satisfy the greed of the few, before there is a realization that fishers are at a point of extinction themselves?

Perhaps we should learn from our history and our forbearers, who obviously, had a little more wisdom than our generation.  They evidently thought a little more about the future and how the next generations would survive.  This was very evident in BonneBay according to an article in the Western Star dated May 21st, 1902.  “….about 200 men went in boats from different sections of Bonne Bay to the Main Arm to Prevent the use of seines there.”  A petition signed by the majority of residents for new laws to be passed referenced “…… the unrestrained destruction of herrings caused by the illegal conduct of persons using seines, imbarring large quantities of spawning herring, destroying thereby all smaller herring, polluting the waters, where herring frequent, thereby threatening the future of this important branch of our fisheries with destruction.”  As a result of this protest a law was passed preventing the seining or trapping of herring which was applied in BonneBay.

GrosMorneNational   Park has become world famous for it rich marine environment and, as a result, attracting more and more attention.  The destruction of the fisheries will have a disastrous affect on the other industries that are establishing as a result of this.  There was a hue and cry against building transmission lines across this terrain with the apparent loss of its UNESCO World Heritage status.  Yet, this current situation hasn’t even raised a glimmer of discontent.  Governments appear oblivious to a disaster that they will imminently face in the not too distant future.

If anything should have been learnt from previous fisheries disasters, it is the necessity to arrest the decline before it becomes a full fledged collapse.  Such environmental and economic calamities are unfixable by anyone; no matter the financial resources you throw at them.  It appears that we are sleepwalking our way into the destruction of our own lives and that of our children and grand children.

This is not only a global issue; it is an issue in Newfoundland and Labrador and for those who live in BonneBay.  It is not an issue for the future, it is now: or there will be no future.  It is not an issue for someone else; it is an issue for all of us; just like it was an issue for the people in BonneBay in 1902”.

Written by Bill Pardy

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