Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is "when you keep doing the same thing, over and over --- and expecting a different result".
Well --- we have now been rationalizing the fishery, over and over, for more than 20 years. So why do we expect a different result this time around?
Plants have already been rationalized, boats have been rationalized, fishers have been rationalized, and plant workers have all been rationalized (we now have half the number we had in 1990) --- all while the value of the fishery has doubled.
And where are we today? Marching off to another round of 'rationalization' --- based on a flawed MOU report.
While the MOU process relied on short term 'proxy' employment measures --- and relied on only one full year (2008) of fishing data (along with some very limited inshore/nearshore 2009 data) to reach its conclusions, the MOU report itself states, quite clearly, that the "viability (of the small boat fishing fleet sector) cannot and should not be gauged on the basis of a single year's performance (and that viability should be assessed)...over a longer period (such as) the economic life of the enterprise's vessel...a 15 to 20 year period".
How therefore can anyone rely on a very flawed MOU one-year data analysis process to conclude that in some areas up to 80% of the small boat sector should be removed from the industry?
While the MOU report itself states that the "viability fleet size" is best determined by looking at the total gross earnings available to the fleet over their "economic life", the MOU process used only a short term 'proxy' employment level measure to determine enterprise viability.
The economic analysis and recommendations contained in the MOU report therefore are grossly inadequate and heavily biased in favour of an unsustainable, narrowly-focused, corporate, and an increasingly unsustainable "industrial vision" for the fishery.
Such a vision is very much out of step with the needs of rural Newfoundland and Labrador, and very much out of step with the emerging need for sustainability.
Properly analyzed and assessed, the small boat sector would probably be shown to be the most viable, the most sustainable and the most deserving of economic support --- not further rationalization.
It is grossly misleading to suggest that there are too many boats chasing too few fish. Instead, what we already have is too much "capital" chasing too few fish. And 'rationalization' will only further increase the existing high level of capitalization.
Studies have shown that the capital costs per fisheries job created by a larger/ industrial fishing vessel sector can be up to 1000 times greater than the capital costs per job in the small boat sector.
Furthermore, while excessive bycatch has long been identified as a major contributor in the failure of cod to recover, bycatch for the larger/industrial fishing sector can be up to 20 times greater than in the small boat sector.
And while annual fuel consumption for the larger/industrial fishing vessel sector can be up to 14 times greater than in a small boat sector, the catch per ton of fuel used in the small boat sector can be up to 5 times greater than for the larger/industrial fishing sector.
Any government, any processor, any union that truly wants to fix the fishing industry must have a broader, more comprehensive, eco-friendly and sustainable fisheries vision. Rationalization (and the planned restructuring emanating from rationalization) is no substitute for a positive and sustainable fisheries vision.
Derrick Butler, director of the Seafood Producers Association, has suggested that there are two models for the industry --- a social model and a business model --- and that we need to move towards a more business model.
Certainly, on the one hand there is the business model that relies on rationalization and an increase in the capitalization of an already overcapitalized industry.
But on the other hand, there is the inshore and nearshore model, where capitalization levels are much lower, where sustainability is not threatened, and where economic, cultural and social benefits are maximized.
Both the government and the union should see the MOU for what it is --- nothing more that a blueprint to further Mr. Butler's overcapitalized, industrial, cash crop business model.
In short, the MOU is a blueprint for doing the same thing, over and over --- all the while --- expecting a different result.
Maurice E. Adams,