Nfld. & Labrador

Offshore shrimp fishery more valuable than inshore, economist says

A Memorial University economist says Newfoundland and Labrador benefits more per tonne if shrimp is caught by the offshore harvesters, rather than the inshore harvesters.

Debate continues between offshore, inshore shrimp fishermen over LIFO policy

Wade Locke says the province's offshore fisherman contribute more to the economy than inshore fisherman. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

A Memorial University economist says Newfoundland and Labrador benefits more per tonne if shrimp is caught by the offshore harvesters, rather than the inshore harvesters.

With reports of shrimp stocks declining, inshore and offshore fishermen are debating who should be allowed to fish the stock.

Wade Locke was asked to look at the benefits that shrimp fishing brings to this province.

His research was commissioned by the Canadian Association of Prawn Producers, which represents the offshore shrimp sector in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Locke spoke Tuesday to the St. John's Board of Trade, shortly before the federal government ordered an independent external review of the controversial "last-in, first-out" (LIFO) policy that has split the fishing industry. 

"LIFO has been suspended pending the minister's decision on the results of the external review," a DFO spokesperson told CBC News. 

Locke concluded the offshore sector that harvests shrimp year round creates more gross domestic product per tonne for Newfoundland and Labrador than the seasonal, inshore sector.

"One would expect the [province's] GDP to increase by $2,246 per tonne transferred to the seasonal sector and to fall by more than $2,785 per tonne  transferred from the year-round sector," wrote Locke in a presentation he gave at a St. John's Board of Trade Tuesday.

"Or, on average, one should expect that each tonne transferred from the Newfoundland and Labrador year-round sector to the Newfoundland and Labrador seasonal sector will cause Newfoundland and Labrador's GDP to fall by $540 per tonne."

An assessment on the shrimp stock in area 6 — a fishing area off Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula and southern Labrador — is expected later this spring.

Offshore fishermen in the province currently benefit from a "last in, first out" (LIFO) policy, which inshore fishermen say affects those using small boats adversely because they were the last to enter the fishery.

The federal government is temporarily suspending the LIFO policy while a panel reviews the matter. 

Processing companies want policy maintained

Bruce Chapman wants to see the LIFO policy maintained for the provinces offshore fisherman. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Bruce Chapman, the executive director of the Canadian Association of Prawn Producers, said he hopes the "last in, first out" policy is preserved in the long run. 

"We would prefer that the [LIFO] policy implemented so many years ago was maintained and we don't support that there has been any compelling case been made to change the policy," he said.

"If the government wishes to review the policy, that's fair enough and if it is based on the facts, we feel confident the fact will support our view."

Inshore fishermen pushing for LIFO to be dropped

Heather Starkes says that both offshore and inshore fisherman need to be able to co-exist and be in the shrimp industry together. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Keith Sullivan, the president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union, which reresents inshore shrimp harvesters, said his members believe suspending LIFO is the right thing to do and hope that the policy will eventually be scrapped altogether. 

"We think that adjacency has to be looked at and harvesters who have traditionally fished there for decades and decades it is important for those thousands and thousand and job both at sea and on land that is supplied by the inshore owner operator fishery so we think that it is a responsible decision," he said.

Fish harvester Heather Starkes fears she'll be directly affected if LIFO is applied to shimp. 

"I understand the offshore fishery and those people want jobs too and I don't want to take their jobs but I don't want them to look at it and take mine either," she said.

"We all need to be in this industry together. Area six is the only area I can fish in. I'd like to be able to stay there."

Starkes said she is contributing to the economy in the area — just like everyone else.

"I'm buying a car, I'm going to restaurants, I'm buying fuel, I'm buying groceries...I have fourteen crew," she said.

Assessment expected in April

A shrimp stock assessment is expected to be completed in April and a LIFO review panel is expected to make a decision in June. (CBC)

The shrimp stock assessment for area 6 is expected to be completed in April, and the results could have lasting effects for thousands of people in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Jobs for both inshore and offshore fishermen and the very existence of their communities could depend on what the study finds. 

According to federal government sources, an official decision by Ottawa's LIFO review panel is expected in June. 

A map from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans outlines the northern shrimp fishing areas. (DFO)

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