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Island MPs slam DFO for not consulting fishery workers

Decision-making process needs some work, they say
Spot prawn fishing is a multimillion dollar industry in B.C. (pixabay)

Vancouver Island MPs are calling on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to work on their decision-making process.

North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney joined Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns (NDP critic for fisheries) and Cowichan-Malahat-Langford MP Alistair MacGregor in calling on the minister to improve the decision-making process and consult with workers in the sector before making changes in regulations. The call comes after a DFO ban on freezing spot prawns at sea for the domestic market. That ban was reversed, but not necessarily permanently.

“DFO is supposed to be working alongside harvesters but they’ve shown that they aren’t listening. New Democrats heard the concerns from fish harvesters and got the fisheries committee to study the ban on freezing prawns at sea. We found out that the government had no good reason to ban tubbing in the first place. Clearly, this wasn’t a conservation measure,” said Johns. “The government needs to assure fishers that they won’t suddenly change regulations and make it harder for harvesters to support their families.”

RELATED: Island MP wants parliamentary inquiry into sudden prawn fishery changes

Johns proposed a new timeline standard for rule changes at the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. That standard is that changes must be announced 180 days before the opening of spot prawn season so fishers “aren’t scrambling to adjust at the last minute,” according to an NDP press release.

“It’s not right for DFO to randomly change the rules and impact the livelihoods of people on our coast, especially when those changes are not needed,” said Blaney. “The minister needs to listen to the fisheries committee who heard directly from fish harvesters, as did I, and ensure that tubbing will be allowed in the coming years.”

“When New Democrats pushed back on DFO’s changes and asked the committee to study the issue, Conservative MPs said it was a knee jerk reaction. But after hearing from witnesses, everyone on the committee was flabbergasted by the department’s lack of rational for banning tubbing,” added MacGregor.

Earlier in the week MP Blaney also tabled a petition signed by over 1,800 Canadians calling for DFO to permit fishers to continue the practice of freezing prawns at sea that was initiated by Powell River prawn fisher Emily Orr.

RELATED: B.C. prawn fishers says sudden DFO change threatens their livelihood

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