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Fishermen's Forum 2010: Conference Speakers Notes

The Gulf Aquarium and Marine Station would like to thank everyone who attended the second annual fishermen’s forum “Moving towards sustainability in rural fishing communities” and contributed to it’s great success.

The forum was well attended with twelve speakers from around the maritime’s presenting a wide range of fisheries topics. The discussion and networks generated from the forum have helped the key fisheries issues presented be better understood and may have potentially lead to resolutions.

Panel 1:The State of the Fisheries 2010: Research Perspectives on Stock Assessments.”

(Michel Biron, Snow Crab Biologist, Fisheries & Oceans Canada; and Jen Graham, EAC)

The forum started off with a panel discussion on the current state of the fisheries. Michel Biron of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) spoke about the snow crab tagging experiments that he has been conducting in the region to assess the snow crab population. Biron discussed the importance of ecosystem based management and stock assessment but cautioned that current research abilities do not yet have a systematic procedure for this type of assessment.

Jen Graham of the Ecology Action Center (EAC) spoke about the impacts of climate change on local fisheries. Jen highlighted that costal communities are on the front lines of climate change and are going to bear the burden of many climate change effects. Jen believes climate change adaptation is becoming the focus as our understanding of climate change effects is continuing to grow. The migration and distribution patterns of fisheries species were targeted as a concern in warming waters, while ocean acidification was also mentioned as a concern, especially for species that have shells, such as snow crab and shellfish.

Panel 2:Marketing Challenges: the global market, certification and other issues.”

(Stuart Beaton, Marketing of the Local Lobster Fishery; Sadie Beaton, Alternative Marketing; Malinda Cole, MSC Guysborough County Inshore Fishermen's Association; and Bruce Cox, Fisheries Loan Board)

The second panel of the day discussed fisheries marketing challenges. Stuart Beaton was up first to give his views on the future of lobster marketing. Stuart, a retired fishermen, marketer and fisheries organizer had a pessimistic view for the lobster industry. He did not believe the local lobster industry would be approved for marine stewardship council (MSC) certification unless very significant changes were implemented in the fishery. In Stuarts opinion he did not see the lobster prices rising in the future and even predicted that they could continue to fall.

Sadie Beaton of EAC presented research she has been conducting on local direct fisheries marketing. Her findings showed that consumers are concerned that there product is harvested sustainably and that the local fisheries are supported. Sadie highlighted some examples of direct marketing happening in Nova Scotia where producers are co-operating with local restaurants, chefs and community groups. Often using social media to advertise to the public. Sadie’s research showed potential opportunities for small-scale producers in the local direct marketing niche.

Melinda Cole of the Guysborough County Inshore Fishermen’s Association spoke about the Marine Stewardship Council certification (MSC). Melinda gave the audience a summary of what the MSC certification entailed and which fisheries are currently certified. It was noted that Sobeys, Loblaws and most markets in the European Union are going to require MSC certification. Ms. Cole emphasized what could be gained by becoming certified such as an increased market share, and improving the fisheries sustainability and traceability. However, a long list of negative concerns such as the certification cost, the lengthy assessment process, overwhelming paper work, additional fisheries regulations and the uncertainly if certification will result in a better price for the product. Melinda believes that there are still many uncertainties in the certification process and that fishermen need to stay engaged in this process.

Bruce Cox of the Nova Scotia Fisheries Loan Board wrapped up the marketing panel by discussing new board regulations. Bruce admitted to some of the shortcomings of the loans but spoke of the benefits of the new licensing program in an aging industry. Only with such programs will the next generation of fishermen find it possible to enter the industry. He added that loans are also available for the establishment of new aquaculture facilities.


Panel 3: From the Bottom Up: Community-based fisheries management”

(Ginny Boudreau, Guysborough County, Inshore Fishermen's Association; Dr. John Kearney, Community Fisheries Specialist; and Dr. Tony Charles, St. Mary’s University)

The third panel of the day tackled community based fisheries management. Ginny Boudreau of the Guysborough County Inshore Fishermen’s Association spoke about the reality that community based fisheries management truly means the fishermen are becoming more engaged in all aspects of the management of the fishery. With fishermen needing to listen to both local and global stakeholders. Ginny discussed that fact that this requires much more time than is consumed by purely fishing and that new management tools are needed for fishermen to cope with this added burden. Ginny said strong leadership and fishing organizations are needed now more then ever to stay engaged in the evolving fishery.

Dr. Tony Charles of St. Mary’s University spoke about methods to improve community based fisheries management. These methods included incorporating local, scientific and traditional knowledge into management practices. Dr. Charles also mentioned that in some community’s bottom up management and a community fishing rights system might have better management outcomes than the current top down approach. He believes the right mixture of government, community and fishermen input can result in a sustainable fishery.

Keynote Speaker Dr. Tony Charles, “Tying Together Fisheries, Communities and

Sustainability”

Dr. Tony Charles was also the lunchtime keynote speaker, where he titled his address “Tying together fisheries, community and sustainability.” Dr. Tony Charles has worked on fishery and coastal topics for 25 years. His research focuses especially on economics, policy and management in fisheries, studying sustainability, community-based management, the ecosystem approach to fisheries, and methods of marine conservation. Tony was one of the original members of the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council, Atlantic Canada’s fishery advisory body, and he was the founding director of Canada’s Ocean Management Research Network. He is a recipient of an international award, the Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation, as well as a Gulf of Maine Visionary Award for his work in Atlantic Canada. Currently Tony is a member of the Coastal CURA, a partnership of First Nations, fishery associations, community organizations and universities that is working toward greater involvement of coastal communities in coastal management.

Dr. Charles started his address by reminiscing about his time spent in Cheticamp during the cod collapse, an event he said that still haunts us today and proved as a “wake up call.” He said that just before the cod collapse, a United Nations group called the commission on environment and development published the Brundtland report, which started the expression, “sustainable development.” Charles said that since then every government and company has felt as though they needed to continuing economic growth while sustaining the environment for future generations. During his address Dr. Charles focused on sustainable fisheries and sustainable coastal communities, and the connection between the two.

The take away point was this: decisions in the fishery have a profound effect on the local community, meaning a bad fishery decision can have a real negative effect on the community. Dr. Chales main concern was that there is disconnect between fisheries decisions and coastal communities. He believes there is a complete split between decisions made in fisheries management (federal decision), and any real consideration of what is good for coastal communities. He said “We need to change that, so when we make decisions in fisheries, we think about impacts on communities.”

Dr. Charles also highlighted the connection between the fishery and our tourism industry. Noting that tourists love visiting the small coastal communities along our seashore to see the lighthouses and inshore fishing boats, Dr. Charles stated that coastal fisheries are important for their own sake, but they are also supporting parts of the economy that they usually don’t get credit for. Noting the owner operator policies are of vital importance in maintaining the inshore fishing boats and the small fishing town feel that lures tourists.

Charles called for more collaboration between municipalities and communities in collaborative research that ties together the values of the fishery and the community. He encouraged communities to get together and talk about its fisheries resources and how it affects the health of the community.

Panel 4:Resource Diversification: aquaculture and alternatives to traditional fisheries”

(Geoff Nishi, Mabou Harbour Oyster Aquaculture; Andrew Bagnall, Nova Scotia Fisheries and Aquaculture; and Irene Novaczek, Institute of Island Studies)

Two afternoon panels followed the lunchtime address. The first panel discussed resource diversification in regards to aquaculture and alternatives to traditional fisheries. Andrew Bagnell of the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Oceans gave an overview of the current state of aquaculture in Nova Scotia. Mr. Bagnell showed the audience the statistics of the growing industry and then underlined some of the opportunities that exist in shellfish, finfish, and aquatic plants production both in land based and open-water settings. Mr. Bagnell also discussed some of the misperceptions associated with aquaculture and reviewed his department’s stringent environmental assessment process.

Geoff Nishi of the Mabou Harbour Watershed started off his presentation with a few kind words for the late John MacInnis of Nova Scotia Fisheries and Aquaculture who Geoff attributes to getting him involved in community development and oyster aquaculture. Geoff described the Mabou Harbour Watershed long term planning ideas, which included using the economic opportunity for oyster aquaculture to leverage funds to get the Mabou harbour, cleaned up. Geoff spoke about how all watershed stakeholders including the agricultural, fishing and forestry sectors and residential users needed to come together to develop and implement the harbour watershed plan. Today there are seven oyster aqaculturists growing product in the Mabou harbour and they are currently going through the environmental assessment to move their operations from on the bottom to suspended aquaculture.

Dr. Irene Nozaczek of the Institute of Island Studies wrapped up the aquaculture panel by discussing her passion for edible and medicinal marine plants for rural enterprises. Irene spoke about the benefits of marine plants as food and medicine and their associated products. Personally, Irene has a line of commercial sea-plant products that she sells at local farmers markets and shops. Irene stressed the idea of high value and small volume production when dealing with locally harvested sea-plants to achieve a sustainable product. Dr. Nozaczek believes there is ample opportunity for the production of a variety of sea-plant products, which can also positively affect local tourism.

Panel 5:Working together: increasing collaborative research opportunities”

(Michel Biron, Fisheries & Oceans Canada; Patty King, Fishermen and Scientists Research Society; and Irene Novaczek, Institute of Island Studies)

The final panel of the day was dedicated to increasing collaborative research opportunities in the fishery. Patty King, the general manager of the Fishermen’s and Scientist Research Society spoke about her society’s collaborative research accomplishments. The society’s goals have been to collect information relevant to the long-term sustainability of the fishery. Patty said that typically scientists provide guidance in developing scientific protocols with fishermen, while fishermen have a key role in identifying research priorities. Patty spoke about numerous research projects currently on the go including a lobster recruitment index from standard traps project that involved over 170 volunteer fishermen in ten lobster fishing areas (LFA’S). Patty stressed that the benefit of this type of collaborative research is that the fishermen then trust the data because they have developed the project and collected the data themselves.

The last panel presentation came from Dr. Irene Nozaczek of the Institute of Island Studies. Irene’s presentation focused on a model of community driven, academy led research and also looked at gender in fisheries governance on Prince Edward Island. She highlighted the need for a more even power balance between community fishery groups and government. Irene stressed the need to get women and boat crew involved in the fisheries decision-making process, as she believes they possess a lot of local knowledge but are often left out of the planning process. Dr. Nozaczek also discussed some of her research initiatives with female captains and crew.

Open Forum Discussion

The final hour of the day was dedicated to open floor discussion. The panelist and audience gathered round in a close circle to discuss the happenings of the day and try to solve some of the unanswered questions. Valuable to GAMS was a discussion on how to initiate further collaborative research in the Cheticamp and greater northern Cape Breton region, with many valuable ideas being contributed by area fishermen. It was mentioned how important it was for GAMS as both a research and a community institution to attend as many of the Fishing Association meetings as possible..

If you would like to see any individual presentation, copies are available here.