Canadian ports will remain closed to Danish shrimp vessels largely from Greenland and the Faroe Islands, federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea said Monday.
"They currently fish more than 10 times what their allocated quota is, so they have to adhere to the quota that was allocated to them and that's the only way this will be settled and, in the meantime, our ports will remain closed," she said after a one-day conference in Halifax with fisheries ministers from the region.
Shea announced the ban on Sunday.
The fishing industry says there are thousands of jobs at stake if the overfishing continues.
Earl McCurdy, president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW/CAW) union in Newfoundland and Labrador, said the real problem is with the quotas set by the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO). He said the treaty that is supposed to stop overfishing has no teeth.
"If a fishing country doesn't like its quota, it can file a written objection and they can set whatever quota they like. Can you imagine looking after speed limits on the Trans-Canada [Highway] like that? " McCurdy said.
"Someone gets a speeding ticket and they say, 'I object to this. I have set a new speeding limit especially for me, 200 miles per hour.'"
The union represents 20,000 workers, most employed in the fishing industry.
New rules for overfishing
Shea said that is true, but Canada has recently signed amendments to the treaty that would give it the tools to stop overfishing of shrimp.
"Once the new amendments are ratified, this will be considered illegal fishing and they can be charged," Shea said.
Meanwhile, there is another victim in this battle — the Faroe and Danish shrimp fishermen who stop in Canadian ports to refuel, load up on supplies and relax before heading home.
Don Coombs, mayor of Harbour Grace, N.L., said that revenue is now gone.
"My point of it is it's OK to say don't come into Harbour Grace, but they are still fishing. So, that's a revenue base we are losing within our town," Coombs said.
Some in the Danish press say this fight isn't about shrimp — it's about sovereignty of the tiny island, which lies on the dividing line between Canada and Greenland.
Denmark claims the island and says it doesn't have to abide by international fishing quotas. Canada makes a similar claim.