Date: Saturday, February 18 2006
Tories to get tough on fish turf
Portugal, Spain can expect Canadian patrols, sanctions, Minister says
John Ivison, National Post
Published: Friday, February 17, 2006
OTTAWA - The new Conservative government has indicated it is going to get tough with European boats that fish illegally in the waters off Newfoundland -- a move that could set Canada on course to reignite the "turbot war" of the 1990s with Spain.
Loyola Hearn, the new Fisheries Minister, identified Spain and Portugal as countries that "constantly break the rules" and said Canada has to take on the responsibility of policing the waters beyond its 200-mile territorial boundary. Actions could include closing our ports to vessels from nations that violate the regulations, he said.
"It's about time we stood up for ourselves and our people ... We sometimes have been real weak when it comes to international dealings, but it's like the guy in the bar -- you can talk your way out of a lot of issues, but sooner or later, if someone is persisting, the coat comes off, and that might happen."
While Canada can issue citations to boats guilty of overfishing, they amount to no more than "a warning ticket on the highway," Mr. Hearn said. "These people go home and the offending nation is supposed to deal with that. In most cases, the boat is back out again as fast as they can get here."
Mr. Hearn's call for urgent action is backed by third-party research that suggests some ground fish are being fished to the point of extinction. The World Wildlife Fund last year criticized Portugal, Spain, Russia and Canada for fishing at levels that made the recovery of stocks impossible.