Nfld. & Labrador

Gail Shea's stance on shrimp allocations may be softening, MHAs say

Newfoundland and Labrador's all-party shrimp committee says there are signs federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea may be starting to soften her stance on how the valuable northern shrimp resource is shared in the province.

Province delivers shrimp impact report to feds, 'hopeful' there's room for change

Newfoundland and Labrador's all-party shrimp committee says Fisheries Minister Gail Shea may be softening her stance on the last in, first out policy. (CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador's all-party shrimp committee says there are signs federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea may be starting to soften her stance on how the valuable northern shrimp resource is shared in the province.

The committee travelled to Ottawa this week to meet with the minister and to present a report that maps out the socioeconomic impacts of shrimp quota reductions in the province and also provides options for managing the resource going forward.

The shrimp fishery in this province is basically divided into a large factory freezer fleet in the offshore, and the smaller vessel fleet in the inshore. Under the last in, first out (LIFO) policy, the inshore is forced to contend with the bulk of any quota reductions that come about.

I think the evidence itself will lead her to make a decision that is absolutely right both for the inshore and offshore sectors.- Vaughn Granter

In 2014, the LIFO policy resulted in the inshore losing more than 30 per cent of its shrimp, while the offshore fleets lost less than five per cent.

The province's report states that current sharing arrangement, if continued, would prove disastrous for many rural regions.

Committee 'hopeful'

Whether or not it has anything to do with 2015 being a federal election year, Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Vaughn Granter says he's been finding a "listening ear" with Shea on most issues they discuss.

According to Granter, given the evidence the province presented in its economic impact report, Shea would be hard pressed to justify maintaining a hard line on her position with respect to LIFO.

"I believe the minister, when we arm her with the evidence that this report produces for her, and options to look at and an alternative arrangement for the northern shrimp allocation, I think the evidence itself will lead her to make a decision that is absolutely right both for the inshore and offshore sectors," Granter said.

The province's all-party shrimp committee is making the case the last in, first out (LIFO) policy will cause serious damage to the rural fishers. (CBC)

NDP MHA Lorraine Michael said she too has noticed a marked change in Shea's approach on shrimp between a meeting with the minister last year and one earlier this week.

At the meeting last June, Michael says Shea "actually did take the kind of fixed position of being, 'No, forget it, LIFO is there.' Yesterday, that wasn't the language."

"That to me was hopeful because she didn't hesitate at all last spring to clearly say forget it," Michael said.

Report highlights options

The alternative management options for the shrimp fishery identified in the report included:

  • Reallocating the SABRI allocation (3,000 metric tonnes) in shrimp fishing area 6 (off northeastern Newfoundland and southern Labrador) to another fishing area and to provide that quota to inshore participants, or permit inshore enterprises to harvest the SABRI quota in area 6
  • Combine area 6 and area 7 (off eastern Newfoundland) biomass estimates for determination of quota in area 6
  • Provide additional access in area 5 (off northern Labrador) to those affected by area 6 reductions
  • Provide all area 6 quota exclusively to the inshore sector

The report states using LIFO continues to be the most damaging way to manage the province's shrimp fishery, adding it's continuation could result in economic devastation for upwards of 100 communities and 3,000 jobs mostly in rural areas.

Christopher Mitchelmore, the Liberal MHA for the Straits-White Bay North, said during the meeting this week Shea also noted that the federal government is doing a bit more homework with respect to shrimp in the short term.

"Minister Shea was very receptive to answering our questions," said Mitchelmore.

"She asked a lot of questions ... but also looking at and stating that DFO is doing an analysis of this so there will be opportunity to continue this dialogue and find a means to see how we can mitigate all these negative impacts to the inshore."

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