Canadian fisheries minister calls for G7 military intervention to fight IUU fishing

Published on
April 20, 2018

On Tuesday, 17 April, Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc told a group of youth delegates to an conference in Ottawa that he wants G7 nations to use their military and other surveillance assets to track illegal fishing. Furthermore, he wants offending countries “named and shamed” for their illegal overfishing.

LeBlanc issued the statement after seeing satellite images provided by the Canadian Forces as part of Operation Driftnet, which is a joint monitoring initiative with Japan. 

LeBlanc said one image in particular stuck out to him – a photo of an eight-kilometer-long net in the Pacific Ocean that is capable of scooping up 400,000 kilograms of wild salmon. Scientists who analyzed the imagery told the minister that the amount of salmon entangled “would represent the entire run of some of Canada’s most important west coast salmon rivers,” like the Fraser and Skeen rivers.

“The entire annual run would be chewed out in one net in the middle of the Pacific,” LeBlanc said. 

LeBlanc clarified than none of the G7 nations were involved in this illegal fishery, those countries which have “a pretty extensive and pretty powerful global network of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing” should be subject to sanctions and “other economic measures.” 

“People think that in the middle of the night, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, there’s not somebody looking at them,” he said. “But increasingly, technology says that that’s not true.”

LeBlanc’s hardline stance is not the first time a Canadian fisheries minister took a firm position on illegal fishing. In 1995, then-minister Brian Tobin engaged in gunboat diplomacy to launch the so-called Turbot War with Spain. DFO fisheries vessels, a Canadian Coast Guard ship, and a destroyer were dispatched to stop a Spanish trawler accused of illegally fishing turbot. As the Canadian ships closed in, the trawler cut its nets and attempted to flee. The crew and ship were arrested and brought to St. John’s, Newfoundland. The cut trawl line, which was found to have an illegal, smaller mesh lining, was retrieved and hung outside the United Nations as proof of the illegal overfishing. 

Reporting from Eastern Canada

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