Harvesters Raise Concerns Regarding Assessment Process for Northern Shrimp
February 24, 2020
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) held a technical briefing today updating industry stakeholders on the most recent stock assessment for northern shrimp in Shrimp Fishing Areas (SFAs) 4, 5 and 6. FFAW-Unifor is calling on DFO to re-evaluate the Limit Reference Point and ensure all surveys are completed in future assessments.
Overall, the fishable biomass in SFA 6, where the majority of Newfoundland and Labrador inshore harvesters’ fish, has shown a relatively low decline of 8 per cent based on a DFO survey. The exploitation rate for SFA 6 was shown to have remained at the very low level of 10% and according to DFO Science is not impacting the health of the stock. However, 24% of the survey was not completed by DFO which raises significant concerns for fish harvesters who want to ensure a comprehensive and accurate assessment of the stock has taken place.
“A significant portion of the survey used to assess northern shrimp and groundfish was incomplete. The northern shrimp stock remains very important to many of our members and it’s crucial that DFO has the most accurate assessment possible to get a clear picture of the stock’s health,” says Keith Sullivan, FFAW-Unifor President.
For many years, FFAW-Unifor has been calling on DFO to re-evaluate the reference points for northern shrimp. Last spring, our Union was successful in pushing DFO to hold a meeting to review the assessment model, particularly in SFA 6. However, no consensus came from this meeting and the Limit Reference Point for northern shrimp is still based on a time period (1996-2003) when cod biomass was exceptionally low.
“When DFO looked at the data from the 1980’s, northern shrimp biomass was comparable to what it is today. It is important that this type of information be included in the assessment of stock status and in setting Limit Reference Points. Hopefully, we can move forward on these important tasks in 2020,” says Dr. Erin Carruthers, FFAW-Unifor Fisheries Scientist.
“We have serious concerns that SFA 5, which is just north of SFA 6, is fishing at a rate of 27% while SFA 6 is limited to 10% when both are at the lowest levels since 1996. The current Precautionary Approach doesn’t make sense – the exploitation rates in these three fishing areas should be more in line with each other due to the connectivity of the stocks,” says Nelson Bussey, FFAW-Unifor Executive Board member and fleet chair for 3L.
Bussey adds, “It’s important that we continue to closely monitor SFAs 4,5 and 6 but also the nearby SFA 7 which is showing signs of growth. It’s possible that in the future the inshore fishery may have the opportunity to fish the resource on the southeast coast of the province.”
“Overall, the latest assessment for northern shrimp is certainly not all doom and gloom, though it’s crucial that DFO take the necessary steps to ensure a holistic approach to fisheries assessment and management that takes into account historic levels of shrimp and their predators,” says Sullivan.
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