Nfld. & Labrador

Northern shrimp stocks a mixed bag, suggest DFO's latest numbers

DFO presented its northern shrimp stock figures for three different fishing areas, and each one has a different classification.

Areas 4, 5, and 6 are classified as cautious, healthy and critical, respectively

Northern shrimp, seen here being processed by workers in St. Anthony, is very important to the industry in N.L., argues the Fish Food & Allied Workers, which says things aren't as grim as DFO numbers suggest. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

The latest figures on northern shrimp stocks for three fishing areas are all different. 

Shrimp in fishing areas 4, 5, and 6 are assessed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans every February. 

On Monday, the agency said despite some uptick, "We continue to be concerned about the future of these stocks."

For shrimp fishing Area 4, the stock remains in the cautious zone. For shrimp fishing Area 5, the stock is in the healthy zone. For shrimp fishing Area 6, the stock remains in the critical zone, according to DFO's briefing.

DFO said there are several factors that could account for Area 6 retaining critical status, including above-average bottom temperatures, and more predators.

One of the main factors DFO uses to calculate its assessment of stocks is looking at the fishable biomass of each area — that's the change in the overall tonnage of all male and female shrimp bigger than 17 millimetres.

"The fishable biomass levels of all three remain at or near their lowest since the mid-1990s," said DFO on Monday.

Situation not a dire one: FFAW

But the Fish, Food & Allied Workers union said things aren't as grim as DFO presents. 

The FFAW acknowledged fishable biomass has decreased in Area 6 — and remains a critical zone — but noted the drop is eight per cent, which the union argued is relatively low.

"Overall, the latest assessment for northern shrimp is certainly not all doom and gloom, though it's crucial that DFO take the necessary steps to ensure a holistic approach to fisheries assessment and management that takes into account historic levels of shrimp and their predators," said FFAW president Keith Sullivan.

In a media release issue Monday, the FFAW argued DFO's survey is "incomplete."

The majority of inshore harvesters fish in Area 6, but the FFAW says DFO should be concerned about Area 5, which is currently designated as healthy.

"We have serious concerns that SFA 5, which is just north of SFA 6, is fishing at a rate of 27 per cent while SFA 6 is limited to 10 per cent when both are at the lowest levels since 1996," said executive board member Nelson Bussey.

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