Nfld. & Labrador

Steve Crocker expects quick decision by DFO on LIFO shrimp policy

Politicians who fought for three years against a controversial shrimp policy say they are "really satisfied" with a recommendation to abolish the controversial last in-first out policy.

All-party committee on northern shrimp 'really satisfied' with recommendation to abolish LIFO

Fisheries Minister Steve Crocker (right) and NDP MHA Lorraine Michael, two members of the Newfoundland and Labrador all-party committee on northern shrimp, were all smiles Wednesday when they addressed reporters at Confederation Building. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

Members of an all-party committee in Newfoundland and Labrador that fought for three years against a controversial shrimp policy say they are "really satisfied" with a recommendation to abolish the controversial last in-first out policy.

What's more, they expect the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans to make a decision on those recommendations very soon, at least prior to a July 7 meeting in Montreal of the northern shrimp advisory committee.

"I'm really satisfied … the work of three years has really paid off," NDP MHA and committee member Lorraine Michael said Wednesday.

The reaction is not quite so positive from the Canadian Association of Prawn Producers, however, which released a statement Wednesday expressing "strong disappointment" with the recommendation.

The association represents the interests of the offshore shrimp fleet, and has lobbied hard to maintain the principle of last in-first out.

"We await the minister's decision on the panel's report and hope the government takes a more measured approach to this important issue," executive director Bruce Chapman said in a news release.

Harvesters, plant workers waiting anxiously

Provincial Fisheries Minister Steve Crocker said a speedy response from acting DFO minister Dominic LeBlanc is critical, since the shrimp harvest typically begins in early July.

"One of our concerns and one of the messages we will send to the minister is this needs to happen," he told reporters at Confederation Building. 

"We have plant workers and harvesters that are ready to start the fishery. So it's important this decision is as expedient as possible."

A panel that reviewed the so-called LIFO policy released its final report on Tuesday, recommending that the two-decades-old policy be abolished and replaced with a permanent sharing arrangement similar to how other fisheries are managed.

The panel said the current policy is not sustainable and does not "provide the basis for all sectors of the industry to plan and adjust to changing realities and does not promote sufficient ownership and stewardship of the resource by all involved."

That's welcome news for the province's inshore fleet, which consists of roughly 240 fishing enterprises.

According to scientific research, the shrimp biomass in fishing area 6 has has declined by roughly 40 per cent.

Based on the existing policy, the inshore fleet would be hardest hit by quota cuts because they entered the fishery after the large factory freezer fleet, which fishes year-round.

The inshore fleet holds about 70 per cent of the quota in area 6, and if DFO accepts the recommendations of the panel, any quota cuts will be shared proportionately.

"It's a fairer, more balanced approach," Crocker said, adding that regardless of the outcome, harvesters will suffer because of lower quotas.

A complete closure possible

Crocker also cautioned that if the stocks continue to decline at the current pace, it's possible a commercial fishery in area 6 would cease to exist.

In anticipation of this, Crocker said the province is exploring way to help transition the industry to a groundfish fishery within in the next three to five years, with shrimp serving as "bridge" until then.

Meanwhile, Chapman said the panel's recommendations could have a "major negative impact" on the hundreds of men and women who work in the traditional, year-round shrimp fishery, and the 2,000 shore-based jobs throughout Atlantic Canada.

Read the panel's full report here.


Terry Roberts is a journalist with CBC's bureau in St. John's.


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