‘It’s go­ing to be very tough on a lot of peo­ple’

The Aurora (Labrador City) - - FRONT PAGE - BY ASH­LEY FITZ­PATRICK

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.

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