Canada has invited 70 nations to attend an international conference on the crisis of dwindling fish populations on May 1-5 in St. John's, Newfoundland.
This conference is a knee-jerk response to the December 2004 announcement from scientists that one-third of the world's oceans should be declared protected to stop the slaughter of entire species of fish.
Canada announced that the talks would focus on how to ensure the 1995 United Nations Fish Agreement can be made effective.
"We want an action plan to move from the words on the paper to actions on the sea," said David Bevan of the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Bevan said that Canada cracked down last year on foreign boats catching protected species just outside its territorial waters, and the number of vessels fishing in prohibited areas has dropped to 94 from 113 in 2003.
"Our message to international vessel owners and crews is clear," said Bevan. "Canada is watching you closely and overfishing will not be tolerated." In December, Canada closed its ports to fishing vessels from Greenland and the Faeroe Islands in a dispute over shrimp fishing.
Captain Paul Watson, president and founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, is not impressed with Canada's actions. "Wow, a decline to 94 illegal vessels from 113. Now that's progress," Watson stated sarcastically. "Canada has always done too little, too late with fishery protection. The Canadian government has been whoring itself to the fishing industries for decades and the primary reason for the decline in the fisheries in Canadian waters has been the incompetence of the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans."
Speaking on the proposed conference, Captain Watson said from the bridge of the M/V Farley Mowat near Bermuda that, "Canada is just trying to pose as the great defender of fish when in fact it was the Canadian draggers authorized by the Canadian government that destroyed the cod fishery. Then the government covered up their incompetence by laying the blame for the demise of the fishery on the harp seals, the whales, the dolphins, the sea-birds, the changing ocean currents. In fact, they laid blamed on everything possible except where it belongs - on themselves. Canada has done little to implement the United Nations Agreement of 1995. Canada has done little to protect its own fisheries, and now Canada wants to play host to an international conference where delegates will meet to once again talk about a problems they will do nothing about. This meeting will be a waste of time, a waste of money and a distraction from the real problem - the lack of political will to actually do something about the problem.
While this conference is taking place, Sea Shepherd will be deploying net rippers to stop the rampant destruction by bottom draggers on the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks
Captain Watson summarized the situation stating, "While they talk, we'll act. Governments are good at useless chit chat. Non-governmental organizations prefer to act."