Shrimp fishery 'crisis' eye-opener for Gander chamber of commerce
The president of the Gander and area chamber of commerce says she is surprised to hear the problems facing the shrimp fishery in rural Newfoundland.
"As someone that grew up in Gander and didn't have a first hand involvement with the fishery, we always knew that fisheries are an important part of Newfoundland and our culture and everything," said Debby Yannakidis. "But wasn't at all aware of the statistics and the decline that's been happening in the past 20 years."
Yannakidis was one of a handful of people that took in a presentation Tuesday night by Fogo Island Co-op general manager Phil Barnes on the economic impact of the decline in the shrimp and crab fisheries.
"We have reached a crisis. This is D-Day," said Barnes. "This is the final frontier."
Informing major centres
Barnes is calling for the federal government to get rid of the last in, first out (LIFO) policy. He says it's the only way to save rural Newfoundland but knows the rallying cry needs to come from bigger communities, too.
"Everybody in our industry understands the problem. It's the lay person, the general lay person out on the street that don't understand really what our dilemma is,' Barnes told CBC News.
"So that's what we're focused on. We're focused on getting most of the people in big urban centres to understand our message."
Yannakidis said Barnes' presentation was eye opening for her and others in attendance.
"We know our customers here in Gander are a large part of the fishery in the outlying areas and we know that it's critical and crucial to a lot of the hubs," said Yannakidis, who estimates about 80 per cent of customers in Gander come form outport communities, buying everything from groceries to vehicles.
Barnes explained in his presentation that if the shrimp fishery collapsed it would be worse than the cod moratorium.
"If we thought the cod moratorium was tough on people and communities, I can't imagine what this will be," said Barnes. "It will pale in comparison. We do not have another fishery to turn to."
Barnes painted a worst-case scenario that would include huge job losses.
"We could see the closure of four, five shrimp plants here in Newfoundland. That's catastrophic for Newfoundland and outport communities."