‘It’s going to be very tough on a lot of people’
A decision by Ottawa to cut into the total allowable catch (TAC) for Shrimp Fishing Area 6 drew swift response, with “disappointing” being a go-to word in reference to the numbers.
The fishing area is located off Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula and southern Labrador and shared by both the inshore and offshore shrimp fleets.
For 2016-17, federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc set the total allowable catch at 27,825 tonnes — a 42.3 per cent drop year over year.
The slash in quota is a direct result of a plummeting shrimp stock. And it amounts to a hard blow for the commercial fishery.
If the last in, first out (LIFO) approach to shrimp quotas were still in place, the vast majority of the cut would hit the inshore fleet. But it was argued, during a review of LIFO policy, that scenario would have destroyed large swaths of the inshore fishery, immediately shuttering local fish plants and devastating rural communities in Newfoundland and Labra- dor.
LeBlanc put an end to LIFO earlier this month. But even with a new “proportional sharing” approach, the numbers are still hitting home for the inshore sector.
“We have major concerns for what it will mean for harvesting enterprises, what that will mean for plants and certainly plant workers who are already struggling with a decreasing supply of shrimp,” FFAW-Unifor president Keith Sullivan said at a recent news conference called at the union’s offices.
In hard dollars (based on export value), he said the loss in shrimp quota for the inshore this year will mean about $70 million taken out of the provincial economy. And quotas may yet be cut in other shrimp fishing areas, where final decisions have yet to be made.
“It’s going to be very tough on a lot of people,” Sullivan said.
The province’s fishery is in transition, and not for the first time, he said, with less shellfish but a rise in groundfish, and he called on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the federal minister to recognize the shift and allow more groundfish to be taken to help build the cod business and boost rural communities.
Sullivan said the industry also needs to work on deals to keep more shrimp caught off of Newfoundland and Labrador in the province for processing.
Looking only at the quota designated for inshore fishermen, the quota cut for this year is a 39 per cent drop year over year. At the same time, for the offshore factory-freezer trawlers it is a 53 per cent drop, according to a statement issued by the Canadian Association of Prawn Producers (CAPP).
The year-round operations of the offshore sector now have a 23.1 per cent share of the overall quota in Area 6, something CAPP refers to as “a betrayal of the federal government’s promise to support year-round employment and investment in Canada.”
CAPP executive director Bruce Chapman said he and his membership were amazed to hear the decision.
“Based on campaign promises of the Liberal government, we truly thought they would make the decision that is in the best long-term interests of the fishery and of the region,” he said in the statement. “There are a lot of people in the Atlan- tic provinces who will suffer as a direct result of this decision, which creates instability for the medium and longer-term. Investors and their employees can no longer trust that quota sharing policy announced for any fishery will be respected by their government.”
Looking at the overall quota cut, provincial Fisheries Minister Steve Crocker said it is disappointing, but not unexpected.
“We did anticipate, or hope, that the quota cut would be significantly less than the 42 per cent, but at the end of the day the harvest management plan for northern shrimp indicates that ... with this size of reduction in the biomass, a 43 to a 57 per cent cut in the quota,” he told reporters. “So if you look at the harvest management plan, it actually, the minister sort of erred on the lower end of it.”
Crocker said he has not heard from any individual processors saying the quota cut would shut their enterprise down this year
“We sort of anticipate that most processors will continue on this year and, I guess, see where it leads into 2017,” he said.