Communication breakdown: Regional director says DFO could do better job getting message out

Communication breakdown: Regional director says DFO could do better job getting message out

A regional director with Fisheries and Oceans says the federal department should think about ways it can communicate its messages — and science — better to fishermen.

During a media briefing on Friday, Jacqueline Perry, regional director of fisheries management for DFO's Newfoundland and Labrador region, said she understands why fishermen — including shrimp harvesters who occupied a DFO building two weeks ago — sometimes react with frustration and hostility to stock assessments and quota changes.

"We've made some very difficult decisions this year, extremely difficult decisions," she said.

"And I would have been shocked if our harvesters that depend for their livelihoods on the fishery were to have reacted with, 'Oh yeah, I get that. I understand how my income has to be reduced by 60 per cent this year.' How could they have reacted any other way?"

Reacting with anger, frustration and fear is understandable, she said.

"These are families with houses and kids in hockey, so these are very, very difficult. I would probably be out there complaining as well, and challenging," said Perry.

Anger and frustration is understandable, says DFO

"This is difficult stuff, and we are doing the very, very best that we can with the information that our science colleagues are able to provide to us with the input of industry. Are we getting it 100 per cent right? I don't know if we will ever know."

Pierre Pepin, a senior researcher and biomathemetician with DFO, said people should expect to see more work done at the federal level because of an increased emphasis on scientific evidence.

"The amount of resources that has been allocated to us has been increased substantially," he said. "We went through a 10-year hell under the Harper government — and I have absolutely no problem saying it because that's what it was — where science was not considered important and where resources kept on dwindling. There's a lot of rebuilding to do."

The department needs to look at ways to communicate its science better, to make sure their messages are delivered and understood, and — even more important, says Perry — believed.

"I think we've got to reflect a little bit more on how we're doing with that, and whether or not we can be doing a better job of it, to address some of our challenges with advancing a more ecosystem approach to managing our fisheries."