The Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District has sent a letter to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans expressing their concerns over DFO’s cost-cutting measures, including a plan to claw back overtime for Coast Guard radio operators.
“It is our belief that the staff reductions taking place in these two departments will have impacts on our communities, firstly by the direct loss of positions and work in the region and secondly, but just as important, the possible reduction in fishing opportunities for all sectors in the region and the subsequent economic loss.”
The letter was addressed to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Keith Ashfield. The Conservative government in an attempt to find ways to widdle down the Federal budget has directed the coast guard to limit the amount of overtime paid to Coast Guard radio operators by not calling in a replacement if someone calls in sick.
This move has been strongly opposed by the union representing the Coast Guard employees and by MLA Gary Coons (who has also sent a letter to Ashfield) who say that having less staffing even on calm days puts lives at risk.
The Regional District board is worried that the DFO’s conservation and stock assessment duties are also on the chopping block, which would have repercussions for the area’s commercial fisheries.
“Conservation is the cornerstone upon which DFO’s mandate rests and stock assessment the means by which we measure our conservation and socio-economic achievements. The importnce of a strong stock assessment cannot be overstated, with out it – the economic fisheries, so important to our region, are often curtailed forgoing millions in landed value,” reads the letter.
The SQCRD poses two questions to the Fisheries Minister: Why are the cuts happening to key areas? And how does DFO plan to maintain it’s current service levels with less staffing?