Quota cuts lead to un­cer­tainty in fish­ing in­dus­try

Ques­tions raised on ac­cu­racy of science, im­pact on plant work­ers

The Compass - - Front page - BY AN­DREW ROBINSON

The Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans (DFO) re­cently an­nounced mas­sive cuts to shrimp and snow crab quo­tas in New­found­land and Labrador for 2017, and peo­ple in the in­dus­try are now won­der­ing what the fu­ture holds.

The in­shore quota in shrimp fish­ing area six (SFA6)was slashed by 63 per cent, bring­ing it down to 10,400 tons.

Two years ago, the to­tal al­low­able catch for the same area was al­most 48,200 tons. The quota has been re­duced by 78 per cent over two years.

As for snow crab, to­tal al­low­able catch is down 22 per cent com­pared to 2016 at 35,419 tons.

Owner-oper­a­tor Carl Hop­kins, who is also the mayor of Old Per­li­can, har­vests shrimp and snow crab. While he finds the cuts to be alarm­ing, Hop­kins is less con­cerned about the im­me­di­ate im­pact on har­vesters. He ex­pects the price of snow crab will ease their bur­den.

“For the crews and ev­ery­thing now with re­gards to the crab, it’s not go­ing to im­pact us as much, be­cause the price is up this year,” he said. “So that’s go­ing to off­set the cost.”

Hop­kins is more wor­ried about the im­pact of cuts on plant work­ers. With fewer prod­ucts to process, he ex­pects some tough de­ci­sions will be made.

“That’s who is go­ing to, I think, feel the big­gest brunt of this,” he said, adding if the trend con­tin­ues next year, the sit­u­a­tion could also be­come grim­mer for har­vesters.

When it comes to shrimp, that sit­u­a­tion is al­ready a bit rough. A shrimp li­cense last year would al­low Hop­kins to har­vest ap­prox­i­mately 45,000 pounds. This year it will likely be less than 20,000.

“And then with the prices, they’re say­ing it’s go­ing to be down again,” he said. “It’s go­ing to be tough times ahead for us.”

Wayne Rus­sell, an owner­op­er­a­tor who fishes out of Bay Roberts, at­tended ad­vi­sory meet­ings with DFO in the lead up to an­nounce­ments about the cuts. He’s been fish­ing for close to 40 years.

“The prob­lem that the fish­ing in­dus­try has with the science is we think the science is flawed on the re­ports in 2015 and 2016,” he told The Com­pass. “There’s a lot of out­side cir­cum­stances that they didn’t take into (ac­count) when do­ing it — con­di­tions of the wa­ter and the el­e­ments of the weather and ev­ery­thing else — and there­fore it’s pretty well the same flaws with shrimp and crab.”

He con­tends DFO science re­lies heav­ily on as­sump­tions, is short on facts and fails to fully rec­og­nize what’s hap­pen­ing in the ocean. He be­lieves more money should be spent on sci­en­tific surveys to get a bet­ter sense of what’s un­der­wa­ter.

Ac­cord­ing to Rus­sell, of­fers from har­vesters to take out small mesh nets as a means to fur­ther gauge recruitment — also known as a fish species’ abil­ity to reach a cer­tain size or re­pro­duc­tive stage —were de­nied by DFO.

Hop­kins is more for­giv­ing of the science.

“With the cuts, ob­vi­ously it’s not nice to hear for any­one who is fish­ing, but I guess the science is show­ing (prob­lems), so you’ve got to pay heed to the science,” he said.

The Quin-Sea Fish­eries plant in Old Per­li­can pro­cesses snow crab and shrimp, so the cuts will def­i­nitely hit close to home in Hop­kins’ town. The Old Per­li­can mayor an­tic­i­pates ser­vice cen­tres like Car­bon­ear will also feel the ef­fects.

“So goes the econ­omy in Car­bon­ear,” Hop­kins said. “It’s all af­fected by here . . . down the shore. We’ve got money, we go to Car­bon­ear to spend it.”

Talk of a re­bound­ing ground­fish stock and an end to the cod mora­to­rium won’t make a dif­fer­ence for this sea­son, but there’s some op­ti­mism sur­round­ing cod.

The Fish Food and Al­lied Work­ers (FFAW) union has called on DFO to pre­pare for a tran­si­tion from shell­fish to ground­fish.

Hop­kins reck­ons if and when har­vesters shift to ground­fish, the process will need to hap­pen at a grad­ual pace.

“There’s lot of ground­fish around — tur­bot and cod­fish,” he said. “It’s just be­ing al­lowed to go and catch it.”

“They’re say­ing cod is there, but cod is get­ting to be such a po­lit­i­cal game now that it’s not about the cod stocks,” said Rus­sell, “It’s about the po­lit­i­cal ven­tures into it — be­tween the in­shore, the politi­cians, the peo­ple who thinks cod is the sav­ior of all and that it should be brought back. Whereas right now cod is part of the de­struc­tion to all shell­fish.”

TC ME­DIA FILE PHOTO

Fish­ing ves­sels tied to the wharf in Old Per­li­can.

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