Seek­ing a vi­able fish­ery

Har­vester and har­bour mas­ter weigh in on state of shrimp fish­ery

The Beacon (Gander) - - Editorial - BY KYLE GREENHAM kyle.greenham@north­ern­

With pro­jected quota cuts to an al­ready cur­tailed fish­ery, some shrimp har­vesters say they will not even bother chas­ing the species this year.

Perry Collins of Sel­dom on Fogo Is­land has har­vested shrimp for over 10 years. He says if quo­tas go lower than they al­ready are, there will be lit­tle to no profit in tak­ing part in the shrimp fish­ery.

“If the quota goes any lower … they may as well close it out all to­gether,” Collins said. “With the time you take to gear up and change over from your other fish­eries, it’s re­ally not worth go­ing af­ter.”

Collins ex­pects many har­vesters will not take part in the shrimp fish­ery this year, par­tic­u­larly those with only a sin­gle quota.

Fish, Food and Al­lied Work­ers Union rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ja­son Spin­gle said in an ear­lier in­ter­view with the Pi­lot that the ex­pected quota cuts are likely to be 15 per cent for gulf shrimp and 16 per cent for north­ern shrimp. This is on top of ex­ten­sive shrimp quota cuts in the past two years, mak­ing what’s left to catch only a tiny por­tion of what was once avail­able to har­vesters.

Do­minic Le­blanc, fed­eral min­is­ter of Fish­eries, Oceans and the Cana­dian Coast Guard (DFO), has pro­posed a pro­por­tional quota-shar­ing ap­proach to make the fish­ery more vi­able for its har­vesters. This pol­icy would cre­ate a “bud­dy­ing-up” sys­tem, al­low­ing mul­ti­ple har­vesters to catch their quo­tas to­gether on a sin­gle ves­sel and re­duce over­all costs.

Collins be­lieves some har­vesters may take ad­van­tage of this sys­tem, but says it mostly ben­e­fits those who al­ready have sev­eral shrimp quo­tas to catch.

“Some of the boats that al­ready got three or four quo­tas, they can make it worth their while to go,” he said. “If they can buddy-up enough to get two or three trips at it they’ll go af­ter it. But if you’ve only enough quota for one trip it’s not go­ing to be worth gear­ing up for.

“You won’t cover your ex­penses. When you come back you’re not go­ing to make any­thing on it.”

Har­bour mas­ter Gor­don Nose­wor­thy of Twillingate’s Har­bour Au­thor­ity agrees that many har­vesters will not find much ad­van­tage in the pro­posed quo­tashar­ing ap­proach.

“They’ll cut down on their over­head but there’s still next to noth­ing to catch for each of them,” Nose­wor­thy said.

A re­ver­ber­at­ing down­fall

Dwin­dling shrimp biomass on New­found­land and Labrador’s Area 6 fish­ing grounds is hav­ing a re­ver­ber­at­ing ef­fect on har­vesters, pro­ces­sors, har­bour au­thor­i­ties and whole com­mu­ni­ties.

“The spin-off from the cut in shrimp is that huge, it’s un­de­fin­able,” said Nose­wor­thy. “It’s not just Twillingate – there’s lots of lit­tle com­mu­ni­ties af­fected and some are next to shut­ting down be­cause of it.”

When Twillingate’s Notre Dame Seafoods plant shut down last year due to shrimp cuts, Nose­wor­thy said the town’s har­bour au­thor­ity also took a $32,000hit.

To deal with this loss of in­come, main­te­nance re­pairs were cut, along with other re­duc­tions. Ac­cord­ing to Nose­wor­thy, DFO pro­vided ex­tra fund­ing when ad­di­tional money was needed. Har­bour mas­ter Gor­don Nose­wor­thy of Twillingate’s Har­bour Au­thor­ity says pro­cess­ing a per­cent­age of what’s caught in the Area 6 off­shore fish­ery might be a way to bring the Notre Dame Seafoods plant back into oper­a­tion.

“We still got to op­er­ate, but op­er­ate with $32,000 less than we did be­fore,” he said. “So we’ve had noth­ing but cut backs – how much fur­ther can you cut back? We’ve pretty much gone to our limit.”

Nose­wor­thy is up­set that the in­shore shrimp fish­ery has been de­pleted, yet the off­shore fish­ery for Area 6 re­mains in oper­a­tion – and the plant in Twillingate is reap­ing no ben­e­fits.

“These fac­tory freezer trawlers are still fish­ing Area 6. That’s our area and that’s our shrimp,” he said. “If they weren’t out there you’d still have a vi­able in­shore fish­ery.”

Collins agrees if the in­shore shrimp fish­ery is now near­ing its end, the off­shore fish­ery should also close

“Per­son­ally I think Area 6 should be closed down for a year or two and see what hap­pens, shut it down for both in­shore and off­shore,” Collins said. “It’s no good to close the in­shore and keep the off­shore go­ing be­cause then only they will reap the ben­e­fits of it.

“Al­low the stocks to re­build in Area 6 and let’s see what hap­pens.”

With talk of a more vi­able ground­fish­ery, Collins says it would be much more valu­able to put the shrimp fish­ery on hold and fo­cus quo­tas else­where.

“It’d be bet­ter to close it out all to­gether and seek quo­tas in other ar­eas,” he said. “Es­pe­cially with cod com­ing back on track, a lot of peo­ple would opt to go out for that in­stead.”

Seek­ing sur­vival

An of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment on whether Twillingate’s plant will re-open is ex­pected in April, but prospects are bleak. Nose­wor­thy says if a per­cent­age of what’s caught in the off­shore trawlers could be pro­cessed at the plant, that would re-em­ploy work­ers and keep the plant open an­other year.

Nose­wor­thy worked at the Twillingate plant years ago when it was still pro­cess­ing ground­fish and played a key role in its tran­si­tion to a shrimp-based plant.

He feels with­out a vi­able fish­ery, the com­mu­nity will suf­fer im­mensely.

“We got a big tourism in­dus­try go­ing here, but this is a fish­ing com­mu­nity,” he said. “This place was know as the fish­ing

“The spin-off from the cut in shrimp is that huge, it’s un­de­fin­able. It’s not just Twillingate – there’s lots of lit­tle com­mu­ni­ties af­fected and some are next to shut­ting down be­cause of it.” - Gor­don Nose­wor­thy

While the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is propos­ing a quota-shar­ing sys­tem, some har­vesters like Perry Collins of Sel­dom says shrimp fish­ers with a sin­gle quota will be bet­ter off not both­er­ing to har­vest shrimp this year.

cap­i­tal of the north for years.

“They can­not de­velop a fish­ery in New­found­land with­out in­clud­ing this place be­cause we’re right in Area 6.”

Whether pro­cess­ing shrimp caught off­shore or tran­si­tion­ing the plant back to ground­fish, Nose­wor­thy hopes there is a good fu­ture in store for pro­ces­sors

in Twillingate.

“The plant may be lost now but we lost it be­fore,” he said. “We got lucky last time and found a way to bring the plant back. Hope­fully we have a way to do that again.”



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