Fisheries Minister Pauline Marois is proposing new regulations that would limit how much fish can be caught in a single trawl and would make it harder for smaller fishermen to survive.
The proposal was first flagged in March but the government has now released a draft of it that she will sign into law.
“I would like to see more fishermen and smaller anglers able to fish, and the trawlers able have more control over the amount of fish they catch,” Marois told reporters on Thursday.
“So, it’s really important that we protect the small anglers, because it’s a small part of the fishery.”
The proposed new rules would also make it more difficult for smaller angler and fisherman to take control of the fisheries by requiring them to apply for permits.
In 2015, the government set out a three-year plan to reduce the size of the fishing industry by 90 per cent and diversification to reduce pollution.
The plan was supposed to take into account that fishermen are increasingly relying on offshore oil and gas drilling, but critics say the plan has been hijacked by oil and mineral companies to create a global industry that threatens the environment and public health.
The government also proposed the creation of a new industry, the Fisheries Stewardship Council, to oversee fisheries management.
Marois has said that if her plan is adopted, she will introduce a new Fisheries Act to codify the new regulations.
The Fisheries Act currently states that fishing quotas are the maximum allowable catch in each sector and allows for unlimited fishing in areas with more than 20,000 square kilometres.
The new rules will require fishers to submit their catch to the council.
The proposed Fisheries Steward’s Council would have power to regulate the industry, but the proposed changes could make it much harder for fishermen to fight back.
“We are proposing that in order to manage fisheries and fisheries sustainability, we have to have more rules, more regulations, more restrictions,” Maris said.
“And if you have a situation where a fisherman is able to manage the fisheries effectively, but he doesn’t have the resources to be able to fight, then he’s going to be forced to give up his fishing rights.”
A recent study commissioned by the government found that the number of fishermen has declined by almost half over the past five years, and that the population of smaller fishers is increasing at the same time.
Maris told reporters that it is important for the fishers of the world to have a voice in fisheries management and that it was essential that they have a say in the regulations that are put in place.
“It’s very important that fishers have a right to have control over what is happening in their waters,” she said.
Marais said that the government is also working with NGOs to help fishermen manage their waters and to increase the number and type of permits they can apply for.
“They need to be aware of the potential for fishing to go down,” she added.
The Government of Quebec’s Fisheries Minister is also considering the new proposal, but she said that it would not be introduced into law until she had consulted with the industry and the public.
Marris told reporters Thursday that she was not going to sign the new Fisheries Stewarded Council.
“That would be my position,” she told reporters.
“Until we can actually get to a situation, I don’t see why we should be taking a position on this at this point in time.”
With files from The Canadian Press