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Cablegate: Embassy Ottawa

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R 042202Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY OTTAWA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7456
INFO RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS 0623
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RUCPDC/NOAA WASHDC
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 OTTAWA 000333

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR OES AND WHA/CAN

COMMERCE FOR NMFS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EFIS EWWT PHSA SENV CA
SUBJ: INTERNATIONAL OCEANS POLICYMAKING IN CANADA:
AMBITIOUS VISION, PAROCHIAL POLITICS

REF: OTTAWA 0094 (notal)

1. (U) This message is sensitive, but unclassified. Not for
distribution outside USG channels.

2. (SBU) SUMMARY/INTRODUCTION: As they envision a global role,
Canada's policymakers in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans
(DFO) draw heavily upon Canadians' popular self-image as being
active multilateralists, international consensus brokers, and (at
least aspiring) leaders in resource stewardship. DFO brings some
important strengths to the international table, including
respectable scientific and operating capabilities, many
international linkages, and (more or less) a single federal
government ministry overseeing policy in this area (which
facilitates decisions, though it may reduce their quality).

3. (SBU) At the same time, DFO suffers from some severe weaknesses
as a policy-making department. DFO has yet to live down the blame
for the collapse of the once-immense Northwest Atlantic groundfish
(cod) resource in the early 1990s, nor the blame for its leading
role during the preceding decade in Canada's mismanagement of the
labor and industries that relied on fisheries. DFO's policy-making
and fish management machinery appears to have remained largely
unreformed since the cod collapse. Bureaucratically, DFO is
horizontally disintegrated, with weak links to other departments,
and large, semi-autonomous regional branches.

4. (SBU) Finally and most seriously, the political-electoral context
in which DFO Ministers operate makes them highly responsive to
parochial pressures in a few coastal regions (particularly
Newfoundland and Nova Scotia), and leaves them with few or no
incentives to consider the broad national interest, nor
international matters (except possibly as a source of external
enemies and scapegoats). There may yet be good results from
Canada's global oceans policy vision, but in our view, such results
would have to be realized in spite of, rather than due to, DFO's
Ministers, the DFO Department, and Canadians' own experience. END
SUMMARY/INTRODUCTION.

BACKGROUND
----------
5. (SBU) Since the collapse of the Northwest Atlantic groundfish
resource in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and the bitterly
reluctant cessation of cod fishing in 1993, Canada's Department of
Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has been living down its role in that
collapse. Most outside experts view Canada's governments, led by
DFO with the complicity of other federal and provincial departments,
as having caused the destruction not only of the resource but also
of the East Coast maritime economy.

6. (SBU) The beginning of the end is generally held to have been
1977, when the extension of Canada's exclusive economic zone (EEZ)
to 200 nautical miles inaugurated a rush to exploit newly staked
offshore resources. As the story is usually told, DFO and other
government agencies facilitated the overexpansion of the fishery for
more than a decade through a complex of mistaken policies:
Qmore than a decade through a complex of mistaken policies:
subsidizing the acquisition of boats and gear, building fish
processing infrastructure in as many locations as possible,
enriching income support programs (notably unemployment insurance)
that caused young workers to choose the fishery over schooling or
alternate occupations, expanding fishing quotas while biasing or
ignoring scientific advice, and under-investing in enforcement.

7. (U) Groundfish catches fell steeply in the early 1990s until the
government introduced a moratorium on cod fishing in 1993, with the
hope that the stocks would begin to recover in a year or two. This
did not occur. While federal and provincial government programs
were adapted to suit the new circumstances, they continued to keep
people attached to the fishery and to maintain capacity. Some fish

OTTAWA 00000333 002 OF 004


catching and processing capacity was mothballed, but much effort was
redirected to shellfish and previously "under-utilized" species.
These have largely turned out to be high-value and have yielded good
incomes. So far these species seem to have avoided the fate of the
cod, though observers suggest this is due to their shorter life
cycles and higher reproductive rates, rather than to implementation
of "lessons learned" in fish management.


8. (U) DFO tried for some years to attribute the cod collapse to
environmental or other factors (temperature change, seals), and one
Minister (Brian Tobin) attained folk-hero status by dramatically
highlighting the culpability of foreign long-distance fleets.
However, most independent observers (and many within the GOC) saw
GOC policies, and particularly DFO fish management practices over
the long run, as having been primarily responsible, with strong
encouragement from successive provincial governments, particularly
in Newfoundland-Labrador.

BOLD VISION
-----------
9. (U) In 1997 Canada passed a law called the "Oceans Act" which it
presented as a model for the future. DFO created a new Oceans
Directorate, and the Act mandated DFO to develop an "overall
strategic approach to oceans management" based on sustainable
development, integrated management, and the precautionary approach.
This led DFO into a decade of policy and "strategy" development
exercises. In 2005, funds were allocated to implement the first
phase of an Oceans Action Plan, and significant progress has been
made toward creating Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

10. (U) Cynics could say that DFO eventually came to terms with the
cod collapse by describing it as part of a "global problem with many
underlying causes." DFO's approach to overfishing is now expressed
in its "International Fisheries and Oceans Governance Strategy," or
IFOGS. According to IFOGS, a "holistic approach" is needed to
combat global overfishing, including monitoring and surveillance,
diplomacy, better governance of regional fisheries management
organizations, and greater scientific understanding (particularly of
straddling and highly migratory stocks).

11. (SBU) While these "strategic policy" exercises no doubt reflect
a sincere effort by DFO to learn from the past and broaden its view,
there is no perception among Canadians that the system that
mismanaged the cod through the 1980s has been reformed, or that DFO
has admitted the magnitude of its responsibility. DFO remains more
or less solely responsible for managing Canada's marine fisheries,
under the same political calculus and using more or less the same
systems that have prevailed for decades. An update to the
140-year-old fisheries law is currently before Parliament, and this
partly reflects an effort to de-politicize fish management.
Nevertheless, DFO officials downplay the legislation - billing it as
"just trying to catch up and codify what present practice is"
Q"just trying to catch up and codify what present practice is"
(reftel) - reinforcing the impression that little has really
changed.

IMPORTANT STRENGTHS - AND WEAKNESSES
------------------------------------

12. (U) As a policy-making organization, DFO has some important
real or at least potential strengths, yet on examination, these tend
not to be utilized. Examples include the following:

13. (U) SCIENCE - DFO has a large, diverse scientific establishment
which is relatively autonomous and is located in institutes and
field offices far from Ottawa. The problems of managing this
establishment are not unique to DFO, rather they are common to most
research organizations (succession planning, knowledge management,
long-term budgeting). More problematic is whether and how DFO

OTTAWA 00000333 003 OF 004


policymakers have based their decisions on the knowledge generated
by this establishment. It is now widely believed that, at least in
the years around the collapse of the cod stocks, much scientific
advice about fish management was distorted and/or ignored, and
scientists were pressured not to complain publicly about this.
While these practices may have been reformed, there is no such
perception among other stakeholders. As a result, while DFO has
strong scientific assets, its credibility does not benefit
accordingly.

14. (U) INTERNATIONAL LINKAGES - DFO offices, and particularly its
operational and scientific staff, have strong and diverse
international connections. A study at the end of 2006 found the
department's employees had some 400 recent or ongoing international
activities, which could be classed into navigation/safety/security
(30%), science and hydrography (28%), policy, trade and development
(22%) and fisheries and conservation (20%). (More than half of
these 400 international activities involved the United States, and
this measurement did not capture a significant amount of additional
informal contact). As with operational and scientific knowledge,
these international linkages appear to offer rich source data for
DFO to develop international policy, but this data was scattered,
hard to collect, and not being utilized.

15. (U) SINGLE POLICY SHOP - DFO international policy staff proudly
note that they run Canada's "single policy shop" on international
fisheries and oceans issues, in that the Department shares very
little of its jurisdiction with provincial governments or other
federal departments. (The Department of Foreign Affairs and
International Trade (DFAIT) substantially cedes international
fisheries and oceans policy to DFO). Unfortunately, there is a flip
side to this coin: policy may lack the robustness that can be
conferred by inter-agency process. DFO's links to other departments
and agencies appear to be surprisingly weak (in the case of Foreign
Affairs or Environment Canada) or non-existent (in the case of the
Canadian International Development Agency). Even the Canadian Coast
Guard and the Canadian Hydrographic Service - two significant
agencies which formally report to the Minister of Fisheries and
Oceans - are protective of their separate identities, and seem to
play down their links to the department.

16. (U) OPERATIONAL CAPACITY - For a Canadian government
organization, a remarkably high proportion of DFO's personnel are
"boots on the ground" (or on the wharf, on deck, or in the chart
room) who work out of regional and local offices and serve in
operational roles such as the Coast Guard, the Hydrographic Service,
small harbor management and construction, navigational systems,
fisheries management and enforcement, and fish habitat protection -
not to mention science (below).

17. (SBU) Though the policymaking function must compete against all
Q17. (SBU) Though the policymaking function must compete against all
these operational concerns for the attention of the Minister and
Deputy Minister, policymaking can also draw upon a very large number
of contacts with reality, and the Department has a direct and
visible role in stakeholder communities which should give it a
useful "voter constituency." Unfortunately, these potential
strengths are not fully realized; too many of those in policy
development roles have virtually never been on a ship and are
unlikely to stay long in the Department, while DFO's presence in
communities can merely cause its decisions to be skewed by local
electoral concerns.

THE FATAL FLAW: REGIONAL POLITICS
----------------------------------


18. (SBU) Which brings us to what, in Embassy Ottawa's view, is the
most serious challenge to Canadian fisheries and oceans
policymaking: regional electoral politics. All of the weaknesses

OTTAWA 00000333 004 OF 004


mentioned so far could arguably be overcome or mitigated by reform.
It is much harder to see what can be done about the decisive
concentration of fishery-related votes in certain provinces of
Canada.

19. (SBU) In Newfoundland-Labrador, Prince Edward Island (PEI), the
territory of Nunavut, and parts of Nova Scotia (NS), New Brunswick
(NB), Quebec and British Columbia (BC), marine-based economic
activity is a principal economic driver, so that fishery votes
really matter to electoral outcomes. (This contrasts sharply with,
for example, the States of Washington, Massachusetts, Florida and
California, where fishery-related issues are tiny compared with
other industries and concerns in those diverse, wealthy regional
economies). Indeed, in Newfoundland and Labrador, issues like the
governance/reform of a regional fishery management organization like
the North Atlantic Fishery Organization (NAFO), or the denial of
port privileges to foreign long-distance fishing fleets - questions
which might seem obscure in other jurisdictions - draw intense voter
attention.

20. (SBU) In Canadian general elections, where it takes as little as
100-120 seats to win federal power, ten or more seats in Atlantic
Canada can easily tilt on fishing issues: three to seven in
Newfoundland-Labrador, and two or three in each of NS, NB, PEI and
Quebec. Normally, the top political concern of Canada's Minister of
Fisheries and Oceans, a mid-level cabinet minister who more often
than not holds one of these seats, is to deliver as many of them as
possible to candidates for his/her political party. (The current
Minister, Loyola Hearn, represents a riding in
Newfoundland-Labrador.) International policymaking is guaranteed to
be subordinate in the Minister's calculations, if it figures at all.
This narrow focus is likely to tighten even further in the next
federal election as the Minister will have to overcome regional
hostility over an ongoing dispute between Ottawa and the Atlantic
provinces concerning Ottawa's treatment of natural resource
revenue.

CONCLUSION/COMMENT
------------------

21. (SBU) Our conclusion is that too much of the crafting of
Canada's international fisheries and oceans policy positions, and
too much of the diplomatic work, falls to a few senior DFO officials
without the benefit of an interagency process or ministerial
engagement. But solution of these institutional-bureaucratic
problems is at least a possibility (though the companies and fishers
that currently influence DFO would likely resist). Even so, that
would leave policymakers with the constraints of regional electoral
politics. While offshore oil development has wrought some change in
eastern Newfoundland, and economic growth and resource developments
have amazing power to transform "have-nots" into "haves," there
seems little current prospect that such fishing-reliant
constituencies will develop enough dramatic new economic drivers to
Qconstituencies will develop enough dramatic new economic drivers to
dilute the power of the "fish vote."

WILKINS

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