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Shrimp Advisory Meeting Update

March 10, 2020

At recent the Northern Shrimp Advisory Meeting, FFAW representatives recommended maintaining the Shrimp Fishing Area (SFA) 6 quota at the 2019 level.  According to DFO surveys, SFA 6 has seen stability in recent years.

SFA 6 has the highest biomass of all the SFAs, yet is categorized in the “critical zone” according to the reference points set for this fishing area in DFO’s Precautionary Approach for northern shrimp.  Reference points in the same Precautionary Approach means that DFO considers SFA 5 to be “healthy” where the biomass is considerably lower.

Up to this point in SFA 6, a total of 7,500 MT been harvested out of a TAC of 8,961 for the current fishing season.  Out of an 82,900 fishable biomass this is a harvest rate of just 7.5%.  By contrast, the fishable biomass in SFA 5 was 64,400 MT and quota of 22,100 MT allowing a maximum harvest rate of 28%. This approach is inconsistent across fishing areas and is a direct result of how reference points were set in the two areas.  It is important to note that these SFAs are all part of the same stock of shrimp.

According to the survey, the fishable biomass in SFA 6 decreased by 8% after a 3% increase last year.  However, the survey was not fully completed this past year. Harvesters and plant workers who depend on shrimp in our province have experienced incredible difficulties as quotas declined and their livelihoods depend on the most complete scientific advice.

FFAW stated there must be immediate plans put in place by DFO to revisit the Precautionary Approach and the reference points that were set when the ecosystem was much different, including having significantly fewer predators. Reference points must be appropriate for the current ecosystem and it is clear that we are in a much different environment that the 2000s.  At the very least, reference points for the different fishing areas should be comparable.

FFAW also presented a proposal to conduct scientific work in SFA 7 (3LNO).  There has been limited information gathered in this area since the fishery closed in 2015.  Since then there have been observations of more shrimp in the area.  Sampling being done throughout the year on the stock would be invaluable in assessments.  Harvesters hope that DFO will be supportive of increasing our understanding of shrimp in SFA 7.

Inshore fish harvesters have been very limited to fishing primarily in SFA 6.  Other fleets have access to numerous fishing zones from the Flemish Cap, Grand Banks off the entire coast of Labrador and on to Baffin Island.  Inshore adjacent owner operators’ harvesters requested access to quota in SFA 5, which is part of the same stock as SF6 and regions further north.

FFAW also requested that fleets be allowed to carry over small amounts of uncaught quota to the following year.  This was a practical tool for orderly management while still fishing within the limits of TACs.  DFO still has this reasonable option in most SFAs.