North­ern shrimp stocks still ‘crit­i­cal’

DFO sci­ence re­ports no im­prove­ment in spawn­ing biomass

The Aurora (Labrador City) - - EDITORIAL - BY BAR­BARA DEAN-SIM­MONS

It’s the sea­son to talk about the prospects for the shrimp fish­ery in New­found­land and Labrador and the ini­tial in­for­ma­tion for the new sea­son does not look promis­ing.

In a me­dia brief­ing Mon­day morn­ing, Feb. 20, Kather­ine Kanes, math­e­ma­ti­cian/stock­assess­ment bi­ol­o­gist with Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans (DFO), out­lined the cur­rent pic­ture from the most re­cent stock as­sess­ments, for north­ern shrimp in fish­ing ar­eas 6, 5 and 4 — off the North­ern Penin­sula and the coast of Labrador.

Data col­lected from the fall multi-species trawl sur­vey by DFO, as well as in­for­ma­tion from fish­ers shows there’s not been much im­prove­ment from last year.

In SFA 6 — the area that most in­shore com­mer­cial fish­ers from this prov­ince de­pend on for their shrimp catches — the biomass of fe­male shrimp is still in the crit­i­cal zone, she said.

The fish­able biomass — the weight of all com­mer­cial-sized male and fe­male shrimp — de­clined from 785,000 tonnes in 2006 to just 104,000 tonnes in 2016.

And there was a 25 per cent de­cline from 2015 to 2016.

If you count only the fe­males — the Fe­male Spawn­ing Stock biomass (FSS) in DFO sci­ence lingo — the in­dex is at 65,000 tonnes; a 27 per cent de­cline from 2015 to 2016 and a stag­ger­ing drop from 466,000 tonnes to 65,000 tonnes over a decade.

By com­par­i­son, the FSS in ar­eas 4 and 5 are classed as ‘healthy.’

Fac­tors like a warm­ing ocean, more nat­u­ral predators like cod fish, and an in­crease in com­mer­cial fish­ing have com­bined to cause de­cline of the north­ern shrimp stock in Shrimp Fish­ing Area 6 (SFA6) in the wa­ters off the North­ern Penin­sula and south­ern Labrador.

Un­der the pre­cau­tion­ary ap­proach ap­plied by DFO, the ex­ploita­tion rate of fish­eries in a ‘crit­i­cal’ zone should be no more than 10 per cent of FSS.

The cur­rent To­tal Al­low­able catch of north­ern shrimp in SFA6 is 27,825 tonnes. The fish­ery is still on­go­ing, so at this point it’s not known whether that quota will be taken.

This is also the spawn­ing sea­son for shrimp.

Skanes ex­plained that shrimp gen­er­ally pro­duce eggs dur­ing the win­ter and re­lease their eggs in the spring, to be­come the next gen­er­a­tion of shrimp.

Last Mon­day’s me­dia brief­ing was, sim­ply put, a ‘heads up’ on the process to come to­wards de­ci­sions on quo­tas for the 2016/17 shrimp-fish­ing sea­son.

Part of the process in­cluded re­lease of the Sci­ence Re­sponse Re­port re­sults from the SRP of Jan. 25, 2017 on the Re­view of Ref­er­ence Points used in the Pre­cau­tion­ary Ap­proach for North­ern Shrimp (Pan­dalus bo­re­alis) in Shrimp Fish­ing Area 6.

That re­port, pro­vid­ing de­tailed in­for­ma­tion, with charts and graphs, on fac­tors im­pact­ing on the shrimp stock in that area, is avail­able at http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/ csas-sccs/Pub­li­ca­tions/ScRRS/2017/2017_009-eng.pdf

Skanes said work is cur­rently un­der­way on a stock ad­vi­sory re­port, which will be ready for pub­li­ca­tion this week.

Af­ter that, on March 9, the North­ern Shrimp Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee, made up of gov­ern­ment and in­dus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives — in­clud­ing, among oth­ers, the Fish Food and Al­lied Work­ers (FFAW), the As­so­ci­a­tion of Seafood Pro­duc­ers (ASP), Nu­nasauviut Gov­ern­ment and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment — will meet to hear the lat­est re­port from DFO sci­ence, and to of­fer their sug­ges­tions on quota lev­els for this year’s shrimp fish­ing sea­son.

Their rec­om­men­da­tions then go to the Min­is­ter of Fish­eries and Oceans, for a fi­nal de­ci­sion on shrimp quo­tas for the sea­son.

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