Shrimp fishermen anxious as LIFO decision looms
Offshore captain one of many on edge with the wait
A decision has yet to be made on whether or not the federal government will maintain the last in, first out (LIFO) approach for allocating northern shrimp quotas.
An advisory panel is due to submit a recommendation on LIFO to Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc, who will have to decide what happens next.
“The ministerial advisory panel has completed its review and will be submitting its final report to the minister very soon,” a Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) spokesperson stated in an emailed response to questions last Wednesday.
Whenever it comes, the decision is in no way an easy one.
Captaining the offshore trawler Newfound Pioneer about 100 nautical miles off of Nain, Carl Hillier told The Telegram he simply hopes the recommendation to the minister takes into consideration more than just arguments around adjacency and historical ties, as pressed to date by the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW)-Unifor and provincial political parties.
“I’m a Newfoundlander. I’m from Grand Bank on the Burin Peninsula. I’ve been fishing for basically 35 years. I’ve spent the majority of my time on the Labrador coast. My father, if there’s such thing as a grave on the ocean, his grave is in (shrimp fishing) Area 6,” he said.
His father was a fisherman, who drowned in 1979 after being pulled overboard while on a trip out for cod. Hillier was 12 years old at the time.
“I don’t know where the FFAW are getting off saying this stuff.”
When it comes to the health of rural communities, Hillier said he does not believe possible alternative business arrangements for onshore fish plants have really been explored.
His current ship’s crew of about 60 (including relief personnel) largely hail from around the province, he said, before rattling off a long list of hometowns.
TC Media has reported the stories of inshore fishermen from some of those communities - fishermen who have been encouraged to invest heavily in the shrimp fishery, adding boats and gear, taking on high debt loads, even with LIFO looming.
Right now, the question is whether or not the smaller enterprises should continue to take the bulk of quota cuts as the shrimp resource declines, particularly off the northeast coast of the island, in the shared Area 6.
The inshore wants the LIFO policy to end, plus sole access to the fishing area, saying the larger, “offshore” trawlers can fish in many other areas, namely further north.
The offshore has argued the North is not always accessible.
On one hand, the FFAW and the provincial government say another year of LIFO risks about 3,000 jobs in-province (including 1,200-1,300 fish harvesters) and the closure of multiple fish plants (there were 10 plants handling shrimp in 2015), killing an economic driver for many rural communities.
On the other hand, if LIFO is abandoned and the 10 larger factory freezer boats are denied access to Area 6, it would be a loss of roughly 30 per cent of their quota in some cases, potentially killing a business model that supports year-round jobs.
Neither a recommendation to the minister nor a decision on LIFO is yet available. Any further information released will be provided in future editions and at www.northernpen.ca