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Federal government breaks sharing agreement with NL halibut harvesters

May 21, 2015

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) announced today that it will no longer honour the longstanding stable sharing arrangement on the Gulf of St. Lawrence halibut quota.

Under the stable sharing arrangement set in 2007, the 4R region of Newfoundland and Labrador held a 32 per cent share of the gulf halibut quota. The stable sharing arrangement has been reinforced in quota increases in consecutive years as the halibut quota increased.

Without justification, the stable sharing arrangement is being changed by Minister Gail Shea to the detriment of halibut harvesters in NL. The 2015 sharing arrangement will result in the NL share being reduced to 24 per cent, a 7.5 per cent decrease in our share.

This follows a decision made by this government where harvesters on the south coast (3Ps) of Newfoundland were not given consideration for their historic share of halibut catch.

FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan says, “This is a disgraceful and desperate attempt by the Conservatives to maintain their federal seats in the Maritime Provinces, at the cost to the economic sustainability of Newfoundland and Labrador, where the Conservatives hold no seats.”

The reduction in the share of halibut to NL is an attack on the viability of enterprises that are most in need. West coast harvesters have some of the lowest earning opportunities from the fisheries and are heavily dependent upon Atlantic Halibut. On the south coast, harvesters in 3Ps hoped to supplement a difficult crab fishery with an improved halibut catch. Fishers from both coasts received the same disrespect from the federal government.

The halibut sharing decision follows the recent decision on northern shrimp that also left Newfoundlanders and Labradorians at a disadvantage. In the case of northern shrimp, the owner-operator inshore fleet bore the brunt of quota cuts to the detriment of the economic sustainability of coastal communities, while the corporate-owned offshore trawler fleet suffered little impact to their quota.

“These continued attacks by the federal Conservative government on rural Newfoundland and Labrador are shameful,” Sullivan adds. “The federal government seems to be under the impression that the economic sustainability Newfoundland and Labrador is unimportant to Canada. Recent analyses by others, such as BMO, suggest the contrary. The fishery is the economic future of our province but with management trends like this we will have no future.”

Timeline for Stable Sharing in 4R:

2007: DFO implements stable sharing based on historic catches (1986-2004). Based on the method used to calculate the 32 per cent, even this percentage was low in comparison to the historic fishing pattern for NL, which was closer to 45 per cent.
2009: DFO under Gail Shea reduces this share down to 27 per cent, going back on stable sharing agreement.
2011: Following significant protests and a two-day sit-in at the Corner Brook DFO office, DFO announces under new minister Keith Ashfield that they would return to the stable sharing agreement. Keith Ashfield becomes Minister of DFO, acknowledges mistake and returned to stable sharing agreement.
2012: Quota remains status quo.
2013: Quota is increased and shared based on stable sharing agreement.
2014: Quota is unchanged and the stable sharing agreement is continued.


For media inquiries, please contact Courtney Pelley at or 709-743-4445.