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Frustrations mount against drastic cuts to inshore shrimp quota

April 7, 2017

ST. JOHN’S, NL – FFAW-Unifor is once again calling on the federal government to remove the offshore trawlers from shrimp fishing area (SFA) 6, and to reconsider the drastic nature of the quota cuts.

Mounting frustrations have resulted in protests around the province – reactions that are justified in the face of federal management that is forcing thousands of people into economic peril. The livelihood of these people is dependent on the northern shrimp resource. Enterprise owners are at risk of personal bankruptcy, and thousands of crew members and plant workers are at risk of job losses.

For the last number of years, FFAW-Unifor led the campaign to abolish the Last in First out (LIFO) policy that would have seen the inshore sector removed entirely from the northern shrimp harvest. While the Union was successful in having the LIFO policy removed, the offshore still holds significantly more quota in several fishing areas.  With these cuts, the offshore trawlers hold approximately 60,000 tons of northern shrimp quota in all shrimp fishing areas, while the inshore holds 7239 tons in area 6.

Next Monday, FFAW-Unifor will meet with the Newfoundland and Labrador caucus in Ottawa, followed by a meeting with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

“DFO must work with us to come up with a better solution that doesn’t decimate rural Newfoundland and Labrador. Our province is facing a pivotal moment in the fisheries. As shellfish stocks decline and groundfish stocks recover, a well-managed transition period is crucial for fish harvesters and processing plants to make that shift,” says Keith Sullivan, FFAW-Unifor President.

The drastic nature of a 63 per cent cut to quotas is not aligned with the corresponding 27 per cent drop in the biomass. The decline in northern shrimp is not due to overfishing, rather it is a result of an environmental shift in the ocean ecosystem. As groundfish stocks rebuild, it is expected that shellfish stocks in the area will continue to decline.

“The excessive cuts to the harvest rate will result in substantial financial hardship to the people and communities of Newfoundland and Labrador. We’ve long requested that DFO take into account the entire marine ecosystem when making policy decisions,” added Sullivan.

Approximately 3000 people are directly employed in the inshore shrimp fishery, which together with its spinoffs, contributed $250 million to the provincial economy in 2015. In 2015, shrimp income made up greater than half of the total harvesting income for more than 75 per cent of shrimp harvesters. Combined with declining crab stocks and few other fisheries to fall back on, these cuts are having a significant impact on the economic livelihood of thousands of people in our province. Taking away nearly two-thirds of the inshore quota for 2017 imperils the sustainability of hundreds of fishing enterprises and over a thousand good jobs.

The total allowable catch for SFA 6 went from 48,196 tons in 2015 to 27,825 tons in 2016, to a dismal 10,400 tons announced for 2017. This amounts to a 78 per cent quota reduction over two years.


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Courtney Glode