Nunavut's Baffin Fisheries Coalition, the largest harvester of shrimp in Canada's North, is expanding; it now owns 100 per cent of its vessels, is hiring new employees and has doubled its board of directors.

"It's an exciting time right now," said Methuselah Kunuk, Baffin Fisheries Coalition vice-president.

"Now we own those four fishing vessels and have a new federal minister for fisheries and oceans, so hopefully all that's going to work well for us."

Kunuk said ownership of the vessels means that more of the profits will go to the Nunavut hunters and trappers associations that co-own the company.

"Hopefully it will be more opportunities for us," said Kunuk. "We are not sharing it with other companies anymore."

Methuselah Kunuk

Methuselah Kunuk, vice-president of Baffin Fisheries Coalition, says ownership of its vessels means that more of the profits will go to the Nunavut hunters and trappers associations that co-own the company. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)

Baffin Fisheries Coalition has also expanded its board of directors to 10 members from five members, with two representatives from each of the hunters and trappers associations in Iqaluit, Pangnirtung, Pond Inlet and Clyde River.  

It has also announced that it will be hiring new employees including three full-time executives.

"We are looking to increase our staff in Nunavut," said Kunuk.

"Initially we want to hire crewing-type employees so that we can look for younger people who might be interested in the fishing industry."

Lack of infrastructure

Jerry Ward, director of fisheries at Qikiqtaaluk Corporation, said while Nunavut's fishing industry is expanding, the current share of fishing quotas is a barrier to future growth.

MV Sivullik

Baffin Fisheries Coalition's MV Sivullik off the coast of Baffin Island. The coalition is the largest shrimp harvester in the North. (Baffin Fisheries Coalition)

Ward said today about 72 per cent of turbot and less than 30 per cent of shrimp quotas in Nunavut's adjacent waters go to fisheries in the territory.

"The next step is that any increase coming in quotas obviously has to go to Nunavut," said Ward.

He said the the lack of marine infrastructure in the territory is another major obstacle to the future growth of Nunavut's fisheries.

"There has to be some infrastructure put into place, in particular a port somewhere, that can be easily utilized by all offshore allocation holders in Nunavut," said Ward.

Ward and Kunuk both agree that a port in Qikiqtarjuaq close to the fishing grounds would be the best solution for offloading product, refuelling and storing and processing their catch.