Cooperation needed to sustain coastal communities

Coastal debate

(June 4, 1998, Gazette)

By Sonia B. Glover

The time has come for scientists to get back in the fishing boats with fishermen and for fishermen to sit at the table next to scientists, according to Dr. Jon Lien of Memorial University's Whale Research Group.

"These two processes are very important when we are talking about coastal zone management," Dr. Lien said during a recent interview with the Gazette. AThere was a time in the Newfoundland fishery when the scientists were in the boats with the fishermen, but over the years we have grown apart. There=s been a separation of cultures ... it's sort of a new version of a religious war.

"Because I'm a scientist I talk to scientists and we talk the same jargon. The people in the fishing communities, they are experts at what they do and they talk the jargon, but we don=t understand each other; we've just moved apart. They have become more specialized and we have become more specialized, so I think it=s important to bring the cultures back together."

Dr. Lien has worked with fishermen for the past 20 years, but since the moratorium was imposed five years ago, he has become more involved in making science applicable to the issues facing coastal communities and to the sustainability of those communities.

Managing coastal communities is the focus of Coastal Zone Canada >98 - a national conference to be held in British Columbia in August at which Dr. Lien will be a keynote speaker. The conference theme is Coastal Communities in the 21st Century - Sharing Our Experience - Building Our Knowledge.

"Right now in rural Newfoundland, the coastal communities are facing a very difficult change. This is because of technology, the economy and the marine resources that are available and the value of those resources." Dr. Lien said. "Often times in the past, I think fisheries science stopped at stock assessments and really had not broadly dealt with the problems these communities face and the management of the resources.

"So, what I've been trying to do is figure out ways to make science relevant and that's what I will focus on at the conference Y the kind of science that is relevant to integrated coastal management. The truth is there has not been a lot of science applied to some of the problems that are faced by marine resources and our coastal communities."

Dr. Lien acknowledged that stock assessments play an important role in preserving fish stocks, but added that it is not enough.

"There's more that we need to do in preserving stocks and making fish available as a resource. It's the allocation of the resource, the way you use them and all the management side of fisheries that's also important and a lot of science hasn't been applied to that."

Dr. Lien said cooperating with communities is the key to coastal management, adding that scientists need to cooperate more with the people who are affected by changes, like fishermen.

"You can no longer manage fish without people and their communities. A fish is just not a fish any more; it's connected to the people and communities that are dependent on it. When you talk about the sustainability of communities, you not only talk about our ground fish, but you talk about our schools, roads, fish plants and fishing technology Y everything gets connected together.

"There was a time when you could manage oceans just by counting fish, but nobody believes that anymore," Dr. Lien concluded.