To the attention of The Honorable Hunter Tootoo, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and copied to: Honorable Karen Ludwig, New Brunswick Southwest
I posted a brief article this week expressing my pleasure at hearing Minister Tootoo’s announcement that areas in the Bay of Fundy will come up for consideration as Marine Protected Areas. Almost immediately, I received negative comments and concerns about the loss of fishing and other rights long held by families … native and otherwise … who have survived in this remarkable ecosystem we call the Bay of Fundy. Since my maternal family is from Grand Manan and has native connections as well, I am fully aware of the history of the fishery in this area, the families that live here and the local and regional economic benefits that come from the resources of the Bay. In fact data show that annual income from fisheries, tourism, and related local industries can approach a billion dollars annually. Quoddy is a special and rich place that deserves to be protected. However, humans are and have been part of the ecosystem here back into post glacial times. It will take a wise individual to see how all of the components of the Quoddy ecosystem can be beneficially integrated.
Having been through the entire process under contract to Parks Canada where we carried out the actual field work, wrote comparative reports for 2 sites in New Brunswick, 1 in Nova Scotia and 1 in Newfoundland, I fully understand the values and concerns. In fact I did not share the extreme positions of many protesters at that time because it had been made clear by Parks Canada that traditional fisheries and related industries would be grandfathered and being relatively young and trusting, I did believe that would be true. Others did not trust these statement from Ottawa. Indeed they had no trust in Ottawa at all based on their experiences in the fishing industry over the years.
In the current situation, I am now not so sure. In fact an article showed up on CBC today where Minister Tootoo stated that decisions would be made on the basis of science. I have no fundamental problem with that, but further down in the article, I see that the environmental heavyweights have already been knocking on the doors …
In the past environmental groups such as the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society have pointed out that development sometimes continued in the small percentage of areas set aside by the previous government. Tootoo wouldn’t define what, if any, development would be permitted in future marine-protected areas, but said all decisions would be based on science.
That’s good news to Sabine Jessen, the national director of the Oceans Program for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. “The science is really clear that the best marine protected areas are ones that don’t have fishing, don’t have commercial fishing, don’t have industrial uses, so that’s what the science has been telling us,” she said in an interview from Vancouver.
Jessen applauds the minister for trying to hit the interim target of protecting five per cent of ocean areas by 2017, but admits that it may not be possible. “All the steps that are required to obtain legal protection, I think that’s going to be part of the challenge. And then there’s a big commitment to consultations,” Jessen said. “So I’d say he’s got a big job ahead.”
Well, if the environmentalists from afar are planning to weigh-in on these considerations and if there is not a plan to include traditional fisheries and marine based businesses … however they might fit under a cooperative management regime … then there will be serious trouble.
Keep in mind that the coastal citizens of Grand Manan and West Island … the so-called Quoddy Region … have fought off challenge after challenge including the tidal development proposed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, the proposed giant oil refinery proposed by the Pittston Company for Eastport, The Marine Park proposal, 3 proposed LNG Terminals (with one remaining) and sundry other inappropriate developments. As tired as many of our citizens are of fighting these continuous battles, they have shown time and again that they can rise to the occasion … and I have no doubt they will on this occasion as well.
In spite of protests, aquaculture slipped through … to the benefit of many of the initial protesters incidentally. Unfortunately, it was largely mismanaged during its early expansion days and rapidly outgrew the ability of this ecosystem to handle it. That has been remedied in some respects, but there is still work to be done and just how this would fit with a proposed MPA remains an open and difficult question to answer. Additional, I suspect that the current players are also, “heavyweights” even as they remain hidden in the shadows.
Major protests will happen again if consideration is not given to a way of life that has sustained the people of the Quoddy shores for hundreds of years including Canada’s neighbours on the Maine side which is only a stone’s throw away and equally depended on the fishery, tourism and coastal shipping.
So Minister Tootoo, welcome to your new job. Many of us are encouraged by your background and your position on our oceans, fisheries and Coast Guard. Listen to all … but be careful what you believe.
That’s my position tonight.
Copied to Editors at: Saint Croix Courier, Quoddy Tides, Calais Advertiser