February 24, 2023
ST. JOHN’S, NL – The Northern Shrimp Advisory Committee (NSAC) meeting is taking place in Halifax this week, where industry and government converge to debate the fate of the upcoming fishery. In attendance at the meeting, FFAW-Unifor is witnessing alarming federal mismanagement and is calling for immediate action to protect the province’s northern shrimp fishery.
“Management decisions are being made on fisheries in the absence of any actual science. These decisions have direct impacts on fish harvesters, on plant workers, and on our communities,” says Greg Pretty, FFAW-Unifor President. “We’re concerned that Minister Murray may close the northern shrimp fishery in SFA 6 – another closure that will have been made in the name of ideology rather than science or Fish Stock Provisions,” Pretty warns.
The inshore fishery has a negligible impact on the northern shrimp biomass, with ecosystem conditions being the primary driver in SFA 6. The impact of reducing the TAC will be felt by fish harvesters and plant workers, while doing nothing to increase the biomass.
As an urgent course of action, FFAW-Unifor is requesting:
- Catch Per Unit Effort (CPUE) data from 2022 be made available.
- Comparative fishing data be made available. In the absence of survey data, this information could assist in guiding decision-making.
- An SFA 6 rebuilding plan working group be established immediately, with a top priority of advancing the review of the LRP ahead of schedule (currently scheduled for 2024).
Since 2014, FFAW-Unifor has been raising the alarm on the limit reference point (LRP) for northern shrimp in shrimp fishing area (SFA) 6. The LRP was set at a time when cod was at its lowest and ocean conditions were much different than present. The LRP must be reviewed to consider the current ecosystem and the interconnected marine environment. As it stands, the current LRP is an unobtainable and is blatantly contradictory to rebuilding plans for other species.
“DFO is refusing to review the LRP until fall of 2024, which is two years away when you think in terms of fisheries. It’s just one more example in an ever-growing list of how DFO’s refusal to prioritize robust, or even marginally adequate science is directly hurting the people of Newfoundland and Labrador,” says Greg Pretty, FFAW-Unifor President. “DFO is undertaking a review of the LRP in SFA 4, which is mainly fished by the offshore, in March of this year. There is no reason why the same cannot be done for SFA 6, especially given the economic peril of this fleet and the impact a closure would have on rural communities,” Pretty says.
The northern shrimp biomass in SFA 6 is the largest of any SFA, has been stable for the last 6 years, and is showing signs of improvement.
“We saw excellent catch rates and increased distribution of the resource in last year’s fishery and if DFO had completed the RV Survey as planned, the northern shrimp fishery may have moved into a less concerning zone, from critical to cautious,” says Rendell Genge, FFAW-Unifor Inshore Council member and shrimp harvester from Anchor Point who is attending the NSAC meeting this week. “But because DFO has once again dropped the ball on completing sufficient science we may be facing a closure instead of a potential increase,” Genge says.
“Once thing is clear, the northern shrimp fishery does not jeopardize rebuilding of that fish stock, and maintaining the current TAC is the only decision that will be accepted by Newfoundland and Labrador harvesters,” Pretty concludes.