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Northern Shrimp Assessment Fails to Capture True Picture of Stock Health

February 25, 2022

February 25, 2022

ST. JOHN’S, NL – The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) science department delivered a technical briefing to industry this morning detailing the most recent stock assessment for northern shrimp. FFAW-Unifor continues to call on the Department to reassess the Limit Reference Point (LRP) for northern shrimp and incorporate harvesters’ observations in science assessments.

“The LRP is set at a time when cod and other groundfish were at very low levels. Expecting the species to rebound to that level when the marine environment is now completely different is short-sighted. We need to consider the entire marine ecosystem when establishing rebuilding plans,” says FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan.

Fish harvesters report improvements in the 2021 fishing season compared to previous years, yet DFO Science still says that SFA6 remains in the critical zone.

Nelson Bussey fishes out of Port de Grave and is an elected FFAW-Unifor Executive Board member and chair of the 3L shrimp fleet. “Catch rates improved significantly over previous years but DFO is still not seeing what we are. It was very encouraging to see that our catches held up throughout the fishing season but when then there’s a disconnect between DFO surveys and the observations of fish harvesters, it can be discouraging, especially because of the reduced survey in 2021,” says Bussey.

2J shrimp harvester Allister Russell fishes out of Mary’s Harbour. Russell says, “2021 was one of the best seasons we’ve had for years, with even the last boats out catching their full quotas. DFO failed to complete large sections of the survey and we feel this has left us with a less an accurate picture of the stock.”

Chris Rose is from St. Anthony and is chair of the 3Kn shrimp fleet. This was Rose’s fourth time attending the science assessment, and like other harvesters who fished shrimp last year, reported significant improvements in the 2021 fishing season compared to previous years. “I hope that future assessments will be more reflective of what we’re witnessing on the water. While we’re given a seat at the table and they let us make our points, nothing we say is taken into consideration. It’s time that DFO put more emphasis on harvesters’ knowledge and their ability to see what’s happening in the fishery,” says Rose.

“FFAW-Unifor would like to thank all fish harvesters who participate in the science assessment process. Harvesters’ observations are an invaluable part of fully understanding the health of stocks. Moving forward we hope their contributions will hold more weight,” concludes Sullivan.


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