SEPT. 12-13, 2007
The Ocean-to-Plate National Roundtable was co-sponsored by DFO and the CCPFH. It was attended by some 52 participants representing fishing fleets from BC, Manitoba, Quebec, NB, NS, PEI and Nfld; provincial government representatives from BC, Manitoba, Quebec, NB, NS, PEI and Nfld.; and representatives of DFO-Ottawa. The meetings were chaired by Earle McCurdy, president of the UFFAW in Newfoundland.
Opening remarks were followed with a presentation by Kevin Stringer, Director General, Resource Management, DFO. Mr. Stringer emphasized that Ocean-to-Plate is an approach to managing the fishery, it is not a policy. The aim is ensure resource sustainability, viability of the fishing industry, to be internationally competitive all in an effort to maximize value of our marine resources.
Traditionally, DFO was responsible for managing the fishery from the water to the wharf. Now the department must focus on economics, industry resilience and international markets. Reality has changed in recent years. Aquaculture now supplies 49% of global fish consumption when, in 1984, it supplied only 17%. Second world nations such as China, India and Russia are major competitors in the global market place with abundant cheap labour with which first world nations cannot compete. Consequently, Canada has moved to an Ocean-to-Plate approach as a means of securing its position in the market place.
Mr. Stringer went on to say that the fishery is, in fact, a split jurisdiction with DFO responsible for the resource and the provinces responsible for processing and other sectors of the industry. In recent years DFO and the provinces have moved much closer together on industry issues. He stated that Minister Loyola Hearn emphasized the need for economic viability of the fishing industry and the consequent protection of coastal communities in the minister’s April 12th announcement. The focus for fishers is their communities and security for the next generation of harvesters.
Eco-labeling is playing a major role in today’s market place. Canada exports 80% of its fish products and large international retailers are demanding that fish products be certified or they will not put them on their shelves. The issue is sustainability and 20% of Canada’s fishery resources are at risk in the near future as a result of the eco-labeling trend.
Mr. Stringer estimates that the Ocean-to-Plate approach will take some seven years to implement properly. Licensing policy and trust agreements are part of the issue if the inshore fishery is to be protected. Banking institutions are beginning to influence licensing policy now that fishing licenses will be able to be used as security. There is also the question of income tax where individuals pay at a rate of 40% but corporations only pay at an 18% rate.
DFO is no longer involved in issues such as marketing and traceability. These programs now require the direct involvement of the provinces and other federal agencies. Mr. Stringer argues that DFO must be the fulcrum to bring all the players together. They are now in the process of putting together a Fisheries Council of departments within the federal government. It will require integration with the provinces. Further summit meetings on lobster, crab and herring are soon to be held to address the issues inherent in the Ocean-to-Plate approach.
The dialogue must include the inshore fleets if the approach is to succeed. Government needs inshore fisher’s views on the path to be followed and the problems to be overcome. A serious issue is capacity building for organizations so that they can meet the demands of this new regime. Unfortunately, Mr. Stringer does not have a solution to this problem.
He finished his remarks by stating that Ocean-to-Plate is a different dialogue. It is about quality, value and communities.
The second speaker was John Sackton of, an internationally respected fisheries market analyst. Mr. Sackton drew parallels between Ocean-to-Plate and eco-labeling.                                                         
Mr. Sackton offered a critical analysis of eco-labels and the MSC label in particular. He stated that eco-labels cannot substitute for traceability or product integrity; these are areas that government must oversee. He said that MSC is dependent upon buyer acceptance and a sufficient supply of fish. Its area of influence is primarily in the UK and Western Europe and more recently with Wal-Mart in North America. MSC is gaining acceptance as a regulator in both large and small fisheries as well as beginning to attract consumer recognition. However, MSC is 95% reliant on Alaskan fishery products as it needs volume fisheries to ensure its own organizational survival. Further, it depends upon government supplied data, but is expensive and requires continual improvement to its certification processes.
Speaking on the international market place, Mr. Sackton said that consolidation is happening on two fronts; retail and wholesale buyers are integrating into larger and larger corporate entities as are large fishing corporations throughout the world. He stated that harvesters and governments must develop an appropriate strategy to deal with this vertical integration in the market place.
Mr. Sackton raised the questions, “Does the Canadian fishery have a brand identity?”, and, “Will eco-labeling help attain brand identity?” he used the example of Newfoundland shrimp and how this might lead to multiple-labeled fisheries. A national brand requires government support, he noted.
The issue for Mr. Sackton is whether eco-labeling works to preserve or prevent supply, given its effect on resource management regimes and harvesters. He said another issue is aquaculture versus the wild fishery and that retailers will have to adopt multiple certifications for various species.
Eco-labeling is part of the branding process, argued Stackton, and processors can no longer simply be price takers. They must supply top quality, provide traceability, develop innovative products and market for increased value. This, he says, is the only way to compete with the growing influence of countries such as China.                                                                            
Provincial government representatives provided overviews of what their respective provinces were doing to address the Ocean-to-Plate initiative as follows:
Newfoundland and Labrador: The province began to address the issue a year-and-a-half ago with a federal provincial fisheries summit. Discussions continued until April ’07 with the announcement of the Canada/Newfoundland Fisheries Renewal Strategy. This strategy will see less in the way of government bailouts to the industry and a more internationally competitive approach. The province will have much more input to resource management issues, particularly with the inshore fleet. The province has initiated an occupational health and safety program for the fishery, it is playing a growing role in marketing Newfoundland fish products, it has a fishers’ loan guarantee program and has established a fishing Industry Safety Council. The province has put in an additional $15 millions of new money over and above the $25 millions it already puts toward the fishing industry. This will be $5 millions in each of three years. Inactive licenses will be cancelled after two years of inactivity. The province is in process of establishing a marketing council, is getting involved in harvesting and processing research and development programs, and will be establishing an auction house as an attempt to attain the best possible shore prices for Newfoundland fishers.
British Columbia: This province, because of the differences in its fishery and industry structure, does not see the Ocean-to-Plate initiative as affecting them; it views it as an Atlantic Canada initiative. BC will concentrate on eco-labeling and traceability issues. A number of species have been certified by MSC and more are going through the process. At the same time, BC intends to become a Center of Excellence for Certification by funding training programs for individuals and companies to attain the necessary qualifications to act as certifying agents to the fishery.
New Brunswick: The province also held a fisheries summit this past spring under the banner of Common Issues for a Common Future. It is similar to the Ocean-to-Plate approach in that it will address the issues of harvesting, marketing and governance within the industry. The province has established an industry round table composed of 27 representatives from the harvesting, processing and government sectors. A Fisheries Renewal Action Plan is intended to be complete by the end of 2008 and government financing to the
industry will be a key component.
Nova Scotia: the province holds an annual provincial minister’s conference with the industry to discuss strategic issues. It also held a round table with DFO. NS has identified the need for greater co-operation between processors and harvesters as a key element to industry stability and improvement. Quality and enforcement are two other major areas the province is addressing. The province will be enforcing regulations on processing plants, but the two issues of needed science and an aging work force are problems to be overcome. The province will be getting more involved in statistical reporting, marketing, traceability and eco-labeling. Nova Scotia looks forward to increased co-operation between Maritime Provinces and hopes to be able to contribute to improved industry capacity and professionalization of fishers.
Prince Edward Island: the PEI representative argued that we must look at the whole picture from harvesting to processing to transportation to marketing to the retail shelf. He stated that Ocean-to-Plate is about a return to profitability for the industry, citing ongoing problems with the Northumberland Strait fishery. Fleet quotas and allocations will be central to any successful approach, he said. He stated that if the new fisheries act, C-45, is endorsed it will help create a regulatory and legislative environment with the least intrusion on industry. It is vital that the processing and harvesting sectors be brought together. New departmental/industry input is necessary, particularly in light of the upcoming summit meetings on lobster, crab and herring. The province is involved in a Processing Committee with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and has established a mandatory dues regime for the PEIFA as the fishers’ representative organization.
Quebec: the Quebec spokesman spoke briefly the following day, referring to the fishery summit held there recently. He said the province was active in
support of each of the harvesting, processing and distribution sectors. For detailed information he suggested that people go to the provincial industry web site at
On the second day participants broke off into three breakout groups to discuss the following six strategic areas;
·     Fish quality, food safety and new product forms
·     Responsible fishing practices
·     Participation in new DFO fish management and science processes
·     Eco-labeling
·     Fleet viability and restructuring issues
·     Participation in provincial Summit processes.
Five themes emerged from these working groups:
·       Marketing and branding
·       Quality enhancement
·       Stewardship and responsible fishing practices
·       Fleet viability
·       Co-management
The working groups felt that establishing a Canadian brand in the market place was important to any successful marketing of our fish products. It was felt that such a branding process should include stories about harvesters as well as promotion of Canadian fish. It was felt this would enhance our position in the eyes of the consumer.
The issue of quality was recognized, but fishers want to be paid for supplying a higher quality product. In most cases there is not a price differential for better quality. The onus, it was felt, is on the processing sector to encourage and to pay for better quality products.
Stewardship and responsible fishing practices were recognized as very        
important and it was felt that harvesters must take responsibility for appropriate management of the resource. Concerns were raised over the lack of DFO enforcement against illegal fishing.
Fleet viability was the most contentious issue for fishers. All fleet representatives argued that the federal government has a responsibility to assist in funding license retirement schemes. License retirement was seen as tool to be used by the harvesting sector in its efforts to increase value from the fishery and the government should be supporting this process. It was seen as impossible for individual fishers to buy out others without risking serious repercussions on coastal communities and individual finances.
Discussions on co-management raised the issue of fishers’ organizations capacity to meet the demands of co-management. Some method must be found to assist harvester groups to develop the people and the knowledge to properly manage the resource of the future.
In general terms, the Ocean-to-Plate approach was viewed as a positive concept. However, there were strong feelings from the inshore fleets that the concept was being pushed by the industrial fleets. The industrial model of higher volume and smaller value was seen to be at odds with that of inshore fleets. Fishers were skeptical about the needed changes in DFO attitudes if the approach was to succeed. A strong, enforced owner-operator policy was viewed as essential to the success of an Ocean-to-Plate approach; the license holder must be independent. Further, rationalization of fleets was recognized as a vital tool in adding value to the resource and protecting communities. DFO resources toward license retirements were deemed essential by all fleet representatives.
Fishers’ groups expressed a good deal of cynicism toward DFO’s proposals. The question was raised if Ocean-to-Plate was a whole new management regime linked specifically to Bill C-45. The industry’s historical mistrust of DFO was seen as a roadblock to going forward quickly. Also, questions were raised about the relationship of Ocean-to-Plate and new approaches being taken by the Oceans sector of DFO regarding an eco-system approach to resource management.                                                                 
Fisher organizations were very concerned about their capacity to meet these new demands. They are engaged in myriad activities with no financial support from DFO. They wondered if this approach was simply another form of downloading on industry.
The issues raised at the national roundtable are not new; industry has been dealing with them for some time. Fundamental to any Ocean-to-Plate regime is access to fish – reasonable allocations must be made available to all fleets. Fishers worried that the process might simply be a disguised approach to instituting an IQ or ITQ program and were concerned that the situation may be too far advanced to enforce a genuine owner/operator policy, a policy crucial to the future viability of the inshore fleet.

r 18, 2007