Nfld. & Labrador

New offshore shrimp deal means more processing — and more work — in N.L.

Up to 7,000 tonnes of industrial shrimp will be processed in Newfoundland instead of being shipped to Europe.

Up to 7,000 tonnes of shrimp will be processed in Newfoundland instead of being shipped to Europe

Northern shrimp stocks declined more than 40 per cent in 2014-2015. The decline in wild shrimp was one of the reasons environmental engineer Keith Driver launched Waterford Farms, near Strathmore. (CBC)

A new agreement on offshore shrimp will see more of it processed in Newfoundland and Labrador instead of being shipped overseas.

Up to 7,000 tonnes of small, frozen raw industrial shrimp is set to be processed in the province, which could increase production at shrimp plants by more than one-third, according to the provincial government.

Normally, the shrimp is landed in Newfoundland and shipped by container to Europe for processing. But with the implementation of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union in 2017, tariffs of up to 20 per cent were eliminated.

Ocean Choice International president Martin Sullivan said the new free trade agreement presented an opportunity for provincial processors.

Even with all of the supply that Quinlan Brothers has directed to this facility, it has been a struggle.- Robin Quinlan

"Up to that point we weren't competitive because of the tariffs going into the EU," he said. OCI has already started landing shrimp at its Port au Choix plant.

With inshore harvesters facing decreasing shrimp stocks in recent years, a new source of product is welcome, says the president of Quinlan Brothers, which operates a shrimp plant with Greenland's Quin-Sea Fishers in Black Duck Cove on the Northern Peninsula.

"Even with all of the supply that Quinlan Brothers has directed to this facility it has been a struggle," said Robin Quinlan.

Offshore shrimp will be welcome at Robin Quinlan's plant on the Northern Peninsula (Todd O'Brien/CBC)

At one time, he said, Quinlan Brothers and Quin-Sea together processed about 40 million pounds of raw material a year, about one-third of the province's quota.

"That raw material last year between us would be less than 10 [million pounds]," he said.

The provincial Department of Fisheries and Land Resources brokered the deal. Minister Gerry Byrne says every thousand tonnes of shrimp means 10 additional days of work for two shifts of 40 plant workers.

Shrimp fishery in decline

It's a good example, he said, of not taking more shrimp out of the water but doing more with the shrimp already being harvested, offsetting the decline of the northern shrimp fishery in recent years.

"Where once there were 13 inshore shrimp processing plants in Newfoundland and Labrador, there are currently seven," he said.

"Where once there were 3,000 workers who worked in our inshore plants, there are now 1,000."

The deal comes into effect April 15.

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