‘The proof is in the pudding now’
With strong shrimp catches throughout May, harvesters and union rep are calling for policy change
Shrimp harvesters across area 5-12 of the 4R zone are still seeing phenomenal catch rates.
Many fishermen, including Jaosn Spence of Port au Choix, are now expecting to have their quotas caught by the end of May.
“I got 314,000 pounds of shrimp to catch and I’m going to have that caught in four weeks,” said Spence. “That’s not something we’ve seen in six or seven years.”
As reported in an initial Northern Pen story, Anchor Point harvester Roland Genge and others credit this success to a policy established by the fishers in the 4R region to not catch shrimp in April – despite the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) policy to open the fishery on April 1.
“We don’t want to fish in April when our shrimp is loaded with spawn, when we’d be hauling up those female shrimp and our future is stuck on their bellies,” said Genge. “Now these are the best catch rate seen in our lifetime; we’re showing the perfect example of how to run this fishery and it’s working.”
Shawn Dempster of Anchor Point had his quota reduced from 302,000 to 257,000 pounds this year. He expects to have the quota completely caught within his next two trips, and he says many harvesters in the area have already gotten their quotas completely caught.
“It’s been a really good year so far, great catch rates and great sizes,” Dempster said.
Genge says harvesters have lobbied DFO for some time to officially keep the fishery shutdown in April but to no avail. He hopes that the pictures and log books that will result from this year’s shrimp fishery in 4R will put some serious pressure towards a policy change.
“They’ve got to listen to the input of fishermen who’ve put their lives into this,” he said.
Spence agrees that the strong catch rates now seen shows vindication and value in the policy they are proposing. As well, Spence hopes that future DFO studies on shrimp biomass will be done in the spring when the shrimp are more abundant and not in late summer or autumn.
“We’ve been telling them we don’t want this fishery opened until May 1 and they won’t do it,” said Spence. “Now we’ve upheld this policy ourselves and got an abundance of shrimp all over the grounds here.
“So someone needs to be held accountable.”
The Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union representative for the region, Jason Spingle, says news of these catches are extremely positive. He feels confident that when shrimp policy is discussed with the DFO this upcoming winter, there is going to be an official policy change to begin the shrimp season in May from here on out.
“It’s really good, and even better than some fishermen thought it was going to be. Some boats have moved out further west on grounds that were usually not so prolific and found even better fishing,” Spingle said. “It’s been frustrating that we got harvesters saying things that are positive for conservation and the department has challenged and ignored it.
“But the proof is in the pudding now. I’m confident that given the developments this year the department will support a new policy for moving the season ahead.”
DFO stated in an emailed response that they’ve heard reports of the successful catches rates in some areas of 4R. The department encourages harvesters to bring their ideas for conservation and sustainable fisheries to them through formal and informal consultations.
As these successful catch rates have remained strong throughout the month and grounds the 4R harvesters cover, Genge says this is a good sign for a rebounding and sustainable shrimp fishery. He hopes government will take strong notice to the events in the 4R zone this year.
“All we want is stability, a decent living and a future for our communities,” Genge said. “This livelihood was handed down to me from my father, and he fished with his father, and now my son Travis fishes with me. I’d like to hand this down to my son, and with proper management this is a renewable resource that can be here for eternity.”
A photo submitted by Port au Choix shrimp harvester Jason Spence, showing the plentiful catch his enterprise has had throughout the month of May. He expects to have caught his 314,000 pound quota in a matter of four weeks, something Spence has not seen...
Roland Genge and his son Travis Genge (pictured) experienced some of the best catch rates for shrimp they ever seen this spring. Roland credits this catch rate to a moratorium on April harvesting established by harvesters in the 4R zone, areas 5-12.