Open Letter to Fisheries Minister Gail Shea on West Coast Fisheries

Hon. Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

July 17, 2009

I am writing to you in order to alert you to the critical situation of the West Coast fisheries and to urgently request that you immediately invest your department’s energy and funds to create a Recovery Plan for West Coast Fisheries.

While all of Canada is reeling from the current economic crisis, the West Coast fisheries have been plunged further into a crisis that has been growing.  On the north coast of British Columbia we have lost upwards of 80% of our commercial fishing fleet in the last seven years.

The Canadian government seems to have recognized that economic stimulus is necessary in order to pull Canada out of this economic downturn. Unfortunately, so far it appears that the west coast fisheries have been left out of stimulus plans.

I have noted the recent funding announcements that have come out of your office such as repairs to a Coast Guard vessel in North Vancouver and upgrading the plumbing and electrical systems of the Institute of Ocean Sciences.  It is with deep regret and concern that I note that none of these supposed stimulus announcements address the increasing pressures on commercial fishing fleets of British Columbia.

These projects do not create opportunities for the commercial fishing fleets, nor for the shore based businesses and communities that depend on them. The economic recovery of the coastal region, particularly in the North Coast, absolutely depends on getting people back to work in the commercial fisheries.

I note that the Department has been trying to invest in aquaculture as an option for diversification, but we cannot just walk away from the existing industries, infrastructure, and knowledge and abandon the communities that depend upon them.

I have repeatedly invited you to visit the North Coast in order to see first-hand the dire challenges that face our coastal fisheries and to comprehend the urgent response required. I was very disappointed that you failed to take me up on the offer even when you visited Vancouver in January of this year.

You said to me in the House of Commons that you would “go back to B.C. to talk to the fishers.” I urge you to fulfill this promise now and come to the North Coast to announce the creation of a Recovery Plan for West Coast Fisheries.

There are countless real jobs that hang in the balance.  There are communities whose very survival is threatened. Assistance for the commercial fishing industries of West Coast BC must happen immediately – the end of the summer is simply too late.

Along with all others that depend on the West Coast Fisheries, I earnestly await your prompt response.

Sincerely,

Nathan Cullen MP

Skeena – Bulkley Valley