Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea stood her ground Tuesday on controversial quota reductions that will cut most deeply among inshore fishermen, and admonished Newfoundland and Labrador for an unfulfilled promise to rationalize the processing sector.
But provincial counterpart Keith Hutchings said Shea's intransigence will likely lead to trouble in the provincial seafood industry.
"We believe we are looking at plant closures. We are looking at harvesters who are getting maybe bankruptcies," Hutchings told reporters.
Hutchings' view was bolstered by Liberal and NDP leaders, who challenged Shea as she met with members of an all-party committee in St. John's to discuss cuts that provincial politicians say unfairly penalize fishermen who work closest to shore.
Earlier this year, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced a 9,000-tonne cut from the inshore fishery, while trimming just 1,000 tonnes from the offshore trawler fleet.
Hutchings and others fear that even deeper cuts are yet to come.
'Not an easy' decision
Shea did not speak with reporters after the meeting, but issued a statement in which she defended the government's decision as being fair to people who have been in the industry for the longest period of time.
Shea said the decision was "not an easy one, but one based on clear science and long-standing policies that have been clearly communicated to everyone in the industry for nearly two decades."
The so-called "last in, first out" policy has come under fire for months, although Shea said that the inshore fleet has received 90 per cent of all increases to the shrimp quota since 1998.
NDP Leader Lorraine Michael said provincial political leaders were unfazed by Shea's refusal to heed their pleas for a change in how the quota cuts are being administered.
"At this moment, she hasn't listened to us but that doesn't mean we are going to shut up," Michael said.
Policies can be changed: Ball
Liberal Leader Dwight Ball said the last in, first out policy needs to be revisited.
"Policies can be changed and what we're asking for is for this all-party committee to have some influence, some say in how the distribution of this resource affects the inshore harvesters in the province right now," Ball said.
Shea's statement indicated some impatience with a lack of movement on a 2007 provincial decision to reduce processing capacity in the fishery.
"Seven years and three premiers later, this still has not happened," Shea said, adding that the last in, first out policy "will not be changed midstream."