Former DFO Executives Call On the PM and the House of Commons to Kill NAFO

OTTAWA, Oct. 6 /CNW Telbec/ - Parliament and the Prime Minister must halt a proposed new treaty that would erode our fisheries sovereignty in the Northwest Atlantic, say four former senior executives of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

NAFO has been been criticized for years as ineffectual and toothless. Testifying today before the House of Commons Standing Committee on External Affairs and International Development, two of the former executives, Scott Parsons and Bob Applebaum, stated that the proposed amendments "fall far short of making the organization more effective and will create substantial new problems". In particular, they stressed that "the amendments will undermine Canada's ability to maintain sole control over fisheries management in the Canadian 200-mile zone".

The former executives consider the proposed amendments to be fatally flawed and urged the Government not to proceed with ratification of the amendments. In a letter to the Prime Minister, they expressed particular concern about a key amendment to the NAFO Convention that would weaken existing Canadian sovereignty in the Northwest Atlantic. Ironically, while the Government is speaking out very clearly about strengthening Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic, it is supporting amendments to the NAFO Convention which would have the opposite effect in the Northwest Atlantic.

They urged the Government to: "immediately withdraw these proposed amendments to the NAFO Convention from the House of Commons, refuse ratification of the proposed amendments and launch a formal objection in NAFO which will end the process and open the door for substantial new talks leading to meaningful improvements to the NAFO Convention."

The four executives are William Rowat, former Deputy Minister of DFO (1994-1997), Scott Parsons, former Assistant Deputy Minister of DFO (1983-2002), Bob Applebaum, Director General of International Relations at DFO (1983-1995) and Earl Wiseman, also Director General of International Relations (1995-2002). Their combined international fisheries negotiating experience spans decades. All have been involved with NAFO at various points in their careers.

Scott Parsons, one of the former executives, in 2005 authored a scathing critique of NAFO, describing it as a "toothless tiger". He concluded that "NAFO is broken" and "Nothing short of radical reform will suffice". Today Parsons observed that "The Government has failed to achieve any fundamental reforms in the proposed new amendments. The proposals are a charade, a game of smoke and mirrors."

In today's testimony before the Standing Committee, Applebaum called the proposed provisions to limit the possibility of foreign states opting out of NAFO conservation decisions "a bit of a sham." "There is now to be a review procedure, but nothing that could result, during the fishing season, in a binding decision that would overrule objections and prevent overfishing."

On September 9th the four met with Premier Williams of Newfoundland and Labrador to brief him on the problems with the proposed amendments. The following day they appeared at a special NAFO Forum in St. John's convened by the Fisheries Community Alliance of Newfoundland.

On Friday, September 11th, Premier Williams wrote the Prime Minister. In his letter Mr. Williams called for the Government to withhold Canadian ratification of the amendments and prevent them from coming into force, saying it is an "urgent issue" for Atlantic Canada -- "an issue that threatens our very sovereignty as a nation."


For further information: For further information: Scott Parsons, Ph.D. (613) 824-0755; Bob Applebaum, (613) 234-6324

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