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DFO Signs Over Yellowtail to USA, Refuses Access to Inshore Harvesters

July 24, 2020

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has extended a deal signing over 1,000 metric tons of yellowtail flounder to the United States while continuing to allocate none of the country’s resource to inshore fish harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Despite FFAW-Unifor’s consistent lobbying and disagreement with the transfer of valuable quotas out of Canada each year, the inshore fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador has no access to the yellowtail quota,” explains FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan. “The federal government should not be handing over yellowtail to another country while Newfoundland and Labrador harvesters have no access to the resource. It is the responsibility of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to reallocate the quota in order to give inshore harvesters access,” Sullivan says.

Yellowtail flounder is a stock managed by the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO). Canada has been allocated a quota of 16,575mt for 2020. In 2008, the Canadian government made a 10-year deal signing over 1,000mt of yellowtail to the United States each year. The remainder of the Canadian quota is harvested by offshore companies and significant portions have not been harvested in recent years, despite capacity for inshore harvesters to participate in the harvest.

Moreover, Canada has deviated from the country-to-country transfer system in recent years to a system where corporations are permitted to negotiate and transfer quotas to foreign countries and other companies outside of the NAFO negotiation process. Such transfers are generally not discussed at the annual meeting and inshore harvesters’ opinions are not given consideration when these transfers are rubber-stamped.

DFO officials informed FFAW-Unifor last fall that there are no plans to reallocate this quota and if inshore harvesters want access, they must make a deal with offshore companies. Rather than protect the owner-operator fleet and reduce inequities in resource allocations, these backroom deals directed by our federal government exacerbate the frustrations felt by inshore harvesters.

“The federal government must work harder to live up to the commitment made in Canada’s new Fisheries Act, which states our federal government must promote and protect inshore fisheries.  This has not been a consideration for Canada at NAFO and this must change.  Inshore fish harvesters will need access to the resources off our shores to ensure vibrant coastal communities,” concludes Sullivan.