Canada, Norway to push reforms within international fishing group next month – ST. JOHN’S, Nfld. (CP) – After years of frustration, Canada and Norway will be among a half dozen nations to launch a formal effort next month to reform the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization.
Since taking over the fisheries portfolio more than a year ago, federal Fisheries Minister Geoff Regan has met with officials from most of the nations that make up NAFO, the organization that manages fisheries in the international waters outside Canada’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone off the East Coast.
On Wednesday, Regan met with his Norwegian counterpart in Trondheim, Norway and emerged with a familiar refrain.
“We agree that we need to take immediate action to reform our (fisheries management organizations) like NAFO,” Regan said.
Norway and Canada have had close co-operation on fisheries issues for many years but finally, fisheries officials say, momentum is building among other nations for change.
Norway is expected to table a package of reforms at a NAFO meeting next month in Estonia – reforms that Iceland, Japan and the U.S. have told Canada they support.
Even the European Union, which has members who have opposed Canada’s enforcement efforts on the high seas, has expressed some support.
“We’re getting a lot of contracting parties interested,” said David Bevan, assistant deputy minister of fisheries. “Now, it’s always the devil in the details and we’ll see how people react when they see specific proposals.”
Norwegian Fisheries Minister Svein Ludvigsen said illegal and unreported fishing is placing a great risk on world fisheries.
“The international community urgently needs to develop and implement solutions to the problem of illegal fishing,” he said in a statement after meeting with Regan.
The United Nations believes about 30 per cent of the fishing in the world is illegal and unreported.
Such fishing has long been a concern for Canada, particularly in Newfoundland, where the collapse of cod stocks caused devastation in the 1990s.
Among the reforms, Canada wants improved decision making within NAFO and a greater focus on sustainability.
Regan also wants better monitoring and improved control over fleets operating in international waters.
In the past two years, Canada has increased surveillance in international waters off the East Coast, keeping at least one enforcement vessel in the area around-the-clock and conducting daily surveillance flights.
Even with the support of these other nations, it could be some time before any changes come about within NAFO.
“It’s a one-week meeting, there’s a tremendous amount on the agenda,” Bevan said. “It would be impossible to realistically come out of that with an agreement on a whole series of reforms. We need to agree on a process and get the ball rolling.”