One of the most satisfying experiences of my career in federal government communications was also one of the rarest: doing media relations at an overseas international conference. The event was the annual meeting of the International Commission for Northwest Atlantic Fisheries (ICNAF), taking place in Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh in June 1975.
Deliberations focused on the impact of Law of the Sea negotiations which resulted a year or so later in establishment of the 200 mile limit of national jurisdiction over fisheries and marine resources. I was there to handle communications for Environment Canada’s Fisheries and Marine Service, predecessor of today’s Fisheries and Oceans Department. Some 18 countries having some involvement in the then thriving fisheries of the Northwest Atlantic were members of ICNAF.
Federal fisheries representatives – Dr. Art May, Dr. Mike Sheppard, Bob Applebaum are some whom I remember – took a leading role in the discussions. Promoting Canada’s interests in international fisheries had been a dominant theme of government policy since Law of the Sea deliberations began in the early 1970s. Fisheries Minister Jack Davis had hosted in Vancouver in 1973 a 10-day FAO Technical Conference on Fishery Management and Development, and I was there as a Press Officer.
Our Canadian group stayed at Edinburgh’s hospitable George Hotel where we found a most enjoyable custom of allowing guests to take their refreshments after hours in the open lounge. Socializing so comfortably after long days of serious negotiating was an unexpected boon. The rafters rang often with song, much stimulated by the spirited talents of Art May and his songstress wife Sonya.
My first impression of Edinburgh came aboard a bus taking us from Prestwick Airport into the city when watching two little girls talking to their obviously Pakistani parents in the thickest Scottish accents one could imagine. A plethora of Scottish speech and no small quantities of Scotch liquor served to lighten the task of supporting media coverage of an important international event. In between business meetings, delegates were treated to several receptions, one of which was hosted at Edinburgh city chambers by the Lord Provost and members of the Edinburgh district council. A particularly enjoyable reception came from a Scotch whisky organization, serving top rated malt whisky in stylish wine glasses – with neither ice nor soda to mar the taste. Never much of a Scotch fan (leaning usually toward rye in those days), I was amazed how smooth and flavorful all of them were.
Leading Canadian reporters attending the conference were Tom Earle, CBC; John Hay, Canadian Press; Peter Calamai, Southam Press; and David MacDonald, FP Publications. Others included Pat Massey, Reuters; Peter Hjul, Fishing News International; and Spike Noel, World Fishing Magazine.
A cherished memento of that experience was this letter dated June 24, 1975, addressed to Hon. Romeo LeBlanc, Minister of State for Fisheries, from Tom Earle, London Correspondent for CBC Radio News:
“On behalf of John Hay of Canadian Press London Bureau and myself, I want to say how much we appreciated the help given to us at the ICNAF Conference by Nix Wadden, your Chief of Information Branch. His professional assistance, rendered at all times, helped us a great deal.”