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Method for calculating shrimp stock reference points must be rethought

April 1, 2018

This article was originally published in the Spring 2018 edition of the Union Forum.

Following the most recent stock assessment, your Union has once again called on on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to re-evaluate the reference points used to establish the stock status of Northern Shrimp in Shrimp Fishing Area (SFA) 6.

Currently, DFO Science sets reference points based on the average Spawning Stock Biomass from 1996 to 2003, a time when shrimp predators such as Northern Cod were at an all-time low and shrimp stocks were increasing rapidly. A rebuilding plan based on this reference period means Northern Shrimp will likely not recover out of the critical zone, irrespective of any fishing pressure.

Earlier this year, FFAW-Unifor representatives and fish harvesters participated in a technical briefing of the upcoming Northern Shrimp Stock Assessment. DFO Science officials reviewed stock status and indicated that shrimp levels are currently comparable to what they were pre-groundfish collapse in the 80’s and 90’s.

“This Northern Shrimp assessment paints a picture of an ecosystem in transition, not simply the decline of a stock. It is crucial that DFO incorporate pre-1996 biomass levels in the management of Northern Shrimp,” said Keith Sullivan. “Re-evaluating the reference points would help to stabilize this fishery and avoid further economic hardship in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.”

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 our members.

In addition to these changes needed to Northern Shrimp management, FFAW has also renewed our call for the Minister to remove offshore trawlers from SFA 6, which must be exclusively allocated to inshore harvesters. The offshore fleet, which also has access to areas 4 and 5 that are currently considered in the healthy zone, should not be permitted to exploit the only area inshore harvesters have access to.

“Unless the Department re-considers their approach, given the current status of the stock, harvesters will expect to see another cut to shrimp quotas again this year. A well-managed transition from shellfish to groundfish is critical to the economic wellbeing of our coastal communities,” said Sullivan.