Nfld. & Labrador

'Mixed emotions' and a 'devastating effect': Union president, fisheries minister react to shrimp quota cut

THe FFAW's Keith Sullivan and Provincial Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Steve Crocker spoke out Friday on the federal fisheries department's decision to cut 42 per cent of the shrimp quota off Area 6.
FFAW Union President Keith Sullivan and Provincial Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Steve Crocker react to the Area 6 shrimp quota cut. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

FFAW Union President Keith Sullivan and Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Steve Crocker spoke out Friday on the federal fisheries department's decision to cut 42 per cent of the shrimp quota off Area 6.

"The immediate effect for inshore enterprises and plants and communities, it's around 25-million pounds and a rough estimate dollar wise, it's possibly in the $70-million dollar range," said Sullivan.

'So I mean ... it's really mixed emotions from the recent announcement.' - Keith Sullivan

"So it's going to be absolutely devastating for our communities and harvesters, and certainly the communities that depend on that."

While the cut in quota is disappointing, there is some relief being felt that the controversial Last In, First Out (LIFO) policy has lifted.

"But I will say, without the decision on LIFO being removed, that would have been an additional 13-million pounds and another $30 million," Sullivan added.

"So I mean ... it's really mixed emotions from the recent announcement. But either way, we're really surprised at the level of the cut, and it's going to certainly hurt this year."

Steve Crocker, provincial minister of fisheries and aquaculture, called the decision disappointing.

"Well, obviously you can't remove that amount of shrimp from the system or from producers and harvesters and not expect a devastating effect," Crocker said.

"There's no way in the world that this will not impact both harvesters and processors."

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball echoed the sentiments, saying LIFO being removed and the inshore harvesters getting the majority of the quota is "something that we're pleased to see, but yet [we're] overall unhappy that we're seeing the science going this direction, which will have a significant impact on shrimp harvesters."   

Area 6 is a fishing zone that covers the waters off the coasts of southern Labrador and northern Newfoundland. The area has seen a significant decline in the biomass of shrimp.

Because of the decline a quota cut isn't surprising, Sullivan said, but the union wanted a smaller cut that would be phased in over two years.

Cod harvesting possibilities 

While the area has seen a decrease in shrimp, cod biomass has increased. Sullivan said harvesting cod has to ramp up as the shrimp quota drops, but at a conservative rate.

"The plan that we've talked about has a very low harvest rate, well within what science would suggest is OK to see continued significant growth," Sullivan said.

Crocker agreed cod harvesting could help soften the shrimp quota blow. 

"I think there's some anticipation that there will be an increase in cod," said Crocker.

"Certainly I wouldn't think it would come anywhere near to offsetting the impacts of what the harvesters are going to lose in this reduction in the shrimp quota."

There's no way in the world that this will not impact both harvesters and processors.- Steve Crocker

Crocker said the province has asked for an increase of cod total allowable catch (TAC) to 15-20,000 tonnes, which is three or four times the current quota.

While the cod fishery offers some opportunity, Sullivan agreed it won't replace what's lost with the shrimp quota decrease.

"It's not something that's going to happen overnight obviously, we had an inshore shrimp fishery that was worth last year about $250 million to the province," Sullivan said.

While the decision is disappointing, Crocker remains optimistic.

"It still allows for a fishery of inshore of about 20,000 tonnes, so it's still substantial harvest and hopefully will lead us into the next two to three years when the cod biomass gets to a point and and cod quotas grow to a point where the harvesters have something else to go and fish," he said.

"And hopefully the [shrimp] biomass in Area 6 stabilizes."

With files from Peter Cowan

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