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Meeting with Minister Joyce Murray and Senior DFO Staff

October 11, 2022

On Friday October 7th, FFAW met with Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) Minister Joyce Murray to discuss several issues of importance to members. Joining the Minister were several senior members of DFO staff.

The meeting began with Minister Murray acknowledging the devastating losses due to Hurricane Fiona, and she requested for her department to be kept informed of the ongoing loss inventory process with impacted harvesters and FFAW.

2022’s encouraging season for Northern Cod was briefly discussed with focus on the wide range of size classes, before the agenda concentrated on mackerel, unit 1 redfish, the need to strengthen owner operator policy, and the Seafood Watch ‘red listing’ of lobster and crab.

On mackerel, FFAW delivered a presentation of the observations documented by harvesters throughout the province. Specifically, harvesters reported high levels of mackerel in Newfoundland and Labrador waters despite DFO’s ill-informed decision to shut down the commercial mackerel fishery in 2022. The Minister thanked FFAW for contributing to the science on the stock and indicated that DFO has a targeted set of science for Spring 2023 to answer ongoing questions about whether the stock is moving and congregating because of changes in water temperature, and whether the congregation witnessed by harvesters is a local phenomenon. The point was made to the Minister that these are larger congregations over a broader area than ever witnessed before, indicating the need for long-term commitment to documenting the abundance, distribution, extent, timing, and age of mackerel in NL waters.

On unit 1 redfish, FFAW asked for an update on DFO’s decision making process for allocation of and access to the emerging commercial fishery. FFAW highlighted the considerable work undertaken in the experimental redfish fishery to develop sustainable methods for harvesting redfish. It was also stressed to the Minister that the emerging redfish fishery presents a significant economic opportunity for the province and could serve as a transition plan for the 4R fleet as well as local communities that continue to struggle with a massive cuts in shrimp quotas. Minister Murray confirmed that a decision will be made in the coming weeks, and proposed meeting in person to discuss the opportunity further when she travels to the province in November.

Lastly, the FFAW indicated to the Minister that the concerns that continue for the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch’s ‘red listing’ of lobster and snow crab are not evidence based because these snow crab and lobster fisheries do not occur in the presence of Right Whales.  The Minister stated that while a uniform approach to compliance with the US’ MMPA is clearly easier, if there is a burden on an area without merit, exceptions will be considered. All parties agreed that new information is required, and the Minister committed that DFO will raise the matter with certification bodies to make the case for a fair and reasonable approach.

FFAW again pointed out to the Minister that Owner-Operator and Fleet Separation policies (fish processing companies not permitted to own inshore fishing licenses) are most important for the future of our inshore fishery and coastal communities. The Minister assured FFAW that they remain fully committed to upholding the Owner-Operator policies that they placed into legislation just a few years ago and would not be doing anything to threaten the policy, rather, looking to strengthening it.

Final remarks pertained the to the Seal Summit, to be hosted by Minister Murray on November 8th and 9th at the Delta, St. John’s. The FFAW recommended for the agenda to be focused on establishing best practices for ecosystem-based management and empirical data on seal populations, migration patterns, predation diet, as well as the interactions between seals and other species. Any meaningful steps towards market access and product development must begin with a better understanding of the resource itself, as well as the fisheries it impacts.