Shunpiking on the Air
DFO in The Dock. Part II

This article is the complete text of an interview with fisherman Wayne Eddie on January 28 by Charles Boylan of "Wake Up With Co-op". the popular weekly morning news and information program on Radio Station CFRO, Vancouver, North America's largest co-op radio station. Wayne was interviewed as part of the weekly show, "Shunpiking Nova Scotia" hosted by this magazine every Wednesday morning at 7:45 am and is part of our ongoing, multi-media coverage of the fisheries. The interview was transcribed by Charles Spurr. Other audio reports are archived at

Today we are going to talk about a legal case that has been brought by the Ecology Action Centre (EAC) against the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for allowing draggers, that is the big boats, the big trawling boats to destroy marine habitat. And it opened in Federal Court yesterday in Halifax (see also, "DFO in The Dock", I have on line a fisherman, a long-line fisherman named Wayne Eddie, who has been fishing for many, many years in a community called Eastern Passage, which is on the northeastern edge of Halifax harbour. Welcome to the show, Wayne.

Wayne Eddie: Hi.

Charles Boylan: Wayne, tell us what the central issue is for you as a long-liner vis-á-vis the introduction of these big dragger trawler boats that have taken over the fisheries on the East Coast.

WE: They have not only taken it over, I should make it clear that this has been an ongoing issue for many, many years. When you see Jacques Cousteau put a story out in 1946-47 and done a study on what the bottom dragging done to the habitat, and only the habitat and the fish and the story's been on going. He said it was going to destroy the fishery back then and we've been fighting it for years. I've been at it for over thirty years, and everything seems to come on deaf ears because most of those large draggers and, they were like the National Seas and with government bail outs it was and it was an economical way to fish they say, but if they want to call economical way to fish I know in 1974 the total catch for the draggers was 79 thousand tons. Of those 79 thousand tons, there was 28 thousand tons that was dumped out back into the ocean dead which is discarded.

CB: Now that 28 thousand tons were fish that were too small and not marketable?

WE: Too small, not marketable and not the right species.

CB: And so that is totally gone to waste?

WE: Right. It totally went to waste. Not only did the fish go to waste, they destroyed the bottom part they caught these fish on at the same time;. There was a lot of trouble years ago with the foreign fleet which was the Russians, the Portuguese, the Japanese you name it, whatever country was allowed in here. Then the government did, I don't know, back in the seventies or sometime, declared a two hundred mile limit. That cut a lot of that out but we still have the same problem with our own country here and our government doing the bottom dragging.

CB: Yes, in fact that was in 1977 that they amended the Fisheries Act in order to accommodate the effects of erecting a 200 mile limit -- on March 1, 1977.

WE: But apparently one of the aspects of this was to put a clause in the Fisheries Act, section 35, governed by various executive imposed regulations. You know the Act is generally, very general and then the regulations imposed by the Ministry at the executive level were really what determine the context of the section itself. Now the section says there must not be any harmful alteration or destruction of the fishery and the fish stocks but it exempted the fishing industry. It was to be applied to logging and to various other industries but they exempted the fishing industry from destroying the bottoms. I understand that these draggers actually do as you said destroy the bottoms and the fish. Could you elaborate a little about how this takes Place? What happens when these draggers go on the bottom there and disrupt the bottom of the ocean?

WE: It's a large net they drag behind them with high-powered boats. It drags a net along the bottom. They have steel doors on them, large steel doors. They are large. When I say large, they would weigh tons and most of them use steel balls or steel dragger boats along them, and weights and stuff along the bottom, and they scoop up the bottom. They scoop up the ground fish, what we call them, which is your cod and haddock and halibut, but that's not all they get. They get other ground fish that is less likely to sell, what we call the wolf fish. There is different species not counting the shell fish species, that is bottom dwellers like the crab and the lobster and stuff that they destroy by going over and scooping them up in their net. Now when they scoop these fish up in the net, like I said, once they scoop them fish there is no releasing them no more. Once the bring them back to the surface actually there are so many tons of fish in this large net [which alone will kill many fish]. [Moreover] once it is brought ashore [i.e. onto the boat] the bladder and everything is blowed up and they will float they will not go back to the bottom. They won't swim away. There's only about one species that would actually swim away. That would be he halibut and the rest of them are pretty well dead. They blow up their bladder from the process of the pressure from the bottom of the ocean to the surface and they are destroyed, and, of course, they don't keep them all because they're not all marketable. They are not all the same species that they want.

CB: I also understand that there was a controversy for a good period of time as to whether or not there are coral on the bottom of the North Atlantic, and apparently there is. Do you want to say something about that?

WE: Yes. They discovered a huge coral bed off of George's Bank which is now banned from all types of fishing in that one particular spot, but this is a large coral. It's an older, older coral. I don't know exactly what it looks like because I never seen none of it myself. It not just this larger coral that's out there. Its all the other coral. I use the analogy like if you put a bulldozer across the bottom where the fish live, the fish have no where to live. And that is about the best you could describe it because these draggers, they operated in the past, especially the larger ones, as if you can picture snow plows going down a run way offset from one anther a little bit for to take up from the other plow. That's the way they used to fish and they'd fish in lines of eight to ten to a hundred really. They'd just clean the bottom and its the same as dosing and clear cutting.

CB: Right. Now the legal case that has been presented by the Ecology Action Centre at the Federal court is being a bit down played by the mass media. They seem to be suggesting this is a bunch of environmentalists trying to stop a multi- million dollar fishing industry with so many jobs, and so on and so forth, but tell us a little about the effect of the draggers on the long line traditional fisher people like yourself and what has been the effect on the Maritime communities.

WE: Well, DFO has not admitted since 1993. We have had a moratorium on ground fish in my area which is, not all the ground fish, but the haddock and cod fish.

The draggers are putting forward a proposal to do a test fishery. They want do some dragging on the outer banks that are closed to all types of fishing now. Over the years they've destroyed the fish stocks that FRO hasn't admitted to yet. You'll hear a little leak once and a while that science says that that's what destroyed most of the fishery. We all had a little part in it but the largest part of destroying the fishery on the East Coast was the large draggers which was subsidized mostly by government, DFO when they bailed out National Sea three different times and million of dollars to keep these large boats on the water and the large factories working ashore.

CB: So they are using state funds to subsidize these companies. What companies are we talking about here?

WE: It's National Sea. Then it's the FPI (Fisheries Products International, now owned by Clearwater) in Newfoundland and the Clearwater here that has large vessels, large boats going now. But I don't think they are as subsidized as much as what they were years ago. When I say subsidized it's because National Sea right here in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia had a number of large vessels between two to three hundred feet and used to go on the ocean and they went bankrupt. I think it was about three times. In the three times they went bankrupt the government paid millions to bail them out.

CB At the same time I understand about 40, 000 long line fishermen like yourself have more or less disappeared out of the economy there.

WE: Yes, for the simple reason that the federal moratorium in 1992-93 put us all out of work. I myself haven't put a long line to water since 1993 when the government put a moratorium on us here. Since then I done some herring fishing and lobster fishing and of course I've done some crab fishing here. So at least some of the long liners have switched to a different species just in order to keep going but our main fishery -- myself 80 to 85% of my income was from the ground fish that there was a moratorium on since 1993 and its still there. Yet the draggers are still in the water in other areas. These are mobile fleets that travel from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland to the off shore to the inshore to wherever they are allowed to go which is pretty well most of the ocean except the aren't allowed to go in our area where we've got a moratorium on.

CB: Well I can hear voices in my ear saying, "yes but these guys are antiquated. This is old-fashioned style fishing. We need modern production," and so on and so forth. How would you answer them as a person? Who did the long line fishing for so many years? How would you answer that question about modernity and modern production replacing the old-style production?

WE: Well, they say there is a modern way of dragging now. too. but I don't know what the modern way would be as far as … They say they use grates and they have modified their nets so they don't catch all species like they used to. Some with these grates and everything they deflect them off and I still don't understand how it works because other than having a camera there to see what species are in front of that net and shoeing them away there's no way they are going to stop any species the size they got these grates set up for and it's still going along the bottom. The stories I've heard from older people than me -- I'll be sixty this summer -- but older people than me who've been on these draggers and have seen how they destroyed and how they dumped fish. They had all these shell fish and lobsters all crushed up and dumped over board. The destruction that they've done over the years went on deaf ears, because as long line fishermen and as associations on the East Coast have been complaining about draggers for years, and it has been falling on deaf ears.

CB: All right. Thanks very much for this piece of information about this ongoing, as you say it's not a new issue on the east coast but I guess this legal case in Federal Court brought by this environmental organization is highlighting once again the issue for Canadians. And I think that it's very much a Canada-wide issue. It's not a local issue by any means. It's not limited to a few long line fishermen or people in the small towns along the east coast. It is a Canada-wide issue because it touches on fundamentally how to look after and preserve a food fishery that had for centuries fed Europeans, West Indians, Canadians with cod fish and which is almost eliminated.

WE: Yes, that's right, because there is a way to fish and preserve the stocks -- a conservation way of fishing. This sure isn't a conservation way.

CB: Thanks very much for this conversation with us, Wayne. You can find this conversation archived at our web site at

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