Atlantic Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers’ Meeting


St. Andrews, New Brunswick, March 30, 2001 –  The Atlantic Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers (ACFAM) met today to discuss issues facing fisheries and aquaculture on the Atlantic coast.  The meeting was co-chaired by the Honourable Paul Robichaud, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture for New Brunswick, and the Honourable Herb Dhaliwal, Federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.  The ACFAM is made up of Ministers from the Atlantic provinces, Quebec, Nunavut and the Government of Canada.

 “I am delighted to have had the opportunity to host my colleagues in what I believe were very productive discussions,” said Minister Robichaud. “The issues on the table were critical to the industry and I am pleased to see a renewed intention to manage the fishery in a more transparent and practical manner as well as the progress made in efforts to support a sustainable aquaculture sector.”

 “I am pleased with today’s discussions and the continued commitment to improve cooperation among our governments,” Minister Dhaliwal said.  “The many challenges facing our fisheries provide us with opportunities to rethink our directions, our policies and the way we do business.  This is evident in the ongoing Atlantic Fisheries Policy Review, in the government’s approach to the Marshall decision, and in today’s decision to proceed with an Independent Panel on Access Criteria.”

 Ministers agreed that the Independent Panel on Access Criteria for Atlantic commercial fisheries will examine decision-making criteria for providing new access to fish stocks that have increased in abundance or value, or where new/emerging commercial fisheries exist.  The Panel will also examine the appropriateness of current access decision-making criteria.  In addition the Panel will examine access criteria and mechanisms used in other jurisdictions and natural resource sectors.  The Panel is expected to conduct its work in the next few months and submit recommendations to the federal Minister this summer. 

 Ministers stressed that the Panel should be impartial, with a clear and focused mandate and that it is an important component of the ongoing Atlantic Fisheries Policy Review (AFPR) process, which is dealing with the broader principles, mechanisms and issues associated with access and allocations.  The Panel’s recommendations, which are to be developed following consultation with the provinces and Nunavut, the fishing industry and Aboriginal organizations, will contribute to the development of a new policy framework for the management of the Atlantic fisheries.  The Panel’s terms of reference and composition will be finalized and announced shortly.

Minister Dhaliwal also provided an update on the AFPR and expressed satisfaction at the level of participation and interest in the public consultations.  The discussion paper, entitled “The Management of Fisheries on Canada’s Atlantic Coast”, was developed in consultation with provincial/territorial governments , industry and aboriginal representatives and forms the basis of the public consultations, which have already taken place in Nova Scotia, Quebec, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.  Over the next few weeks, the AFPR team will continue its consultations in Newfoundland and Nunavut.  While the public meetings will run until April 18, interested individuals and organizations have until the end of May to submit their comments. 

 Progress on addressing the Marshall decision was also a key item on the agenda.  Ministers continued their support of the federal government's two-track approach, which includes DFO's ongoing efforts to provide Mi'kmaq and Maliseet communities access to commercial fisheries, consistent with the Supreme Court decision.  During the discussion, Minister Dhaliwal also outlined some of the measures the Department has taken over the past year to provide First Nations with start-up assistance, facilitating their success as they increase their fishing activity.  For the First Nations that signed agreements, the measures included provision of vessels and gear, funding for critical infrastructure such as wharves, and opportunities for training and mentoring. 

 Minister Dhaliwal also updated his colleagues on the current negotiations and emphasized that Mi'kmaq and Maliseet communities will have access to the commercial fishery as fishing seasons open, whether or not they have concluded negotiations with the Federal Fisheries Negotiator.  He also reaffirmed the Government of Canada’s commitment to taking into account the interests of other participants in the fishery.

 Ministers also discussed progress made in efforts to support a sustainable aquaculture sector in Canada.  Minister Dhaliwal provided an update on initiatives to develop an aquatic animal health program and to implement a new collaborative research and development program.  Ministers also discussed efforts to improve aquaculture application review processes in a manner that harmonizes federal, provincial and territorial processes to the greatest extent possible.  Minister Dhaliwal noted that all these initiatives, undertaken in consultation with the provinces and territories, and the industry, have already improved the ability of governments and the aquaculture industry to work towards common goals of increasing public confidence in aquaculture and allowing the industry to grow and better compete in international markets.

 The ACFAM will meet again in Prince Edward Island in the Fall, consistent with its terms of reference.

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