Nfld. & Labrador

DFO defends northern shrimp catch by offshore fleet

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is defending its decision to allow offshore factory freezer trawlers to catch northern shrimp this spring, even though its own scientists say the stock is vulnerable to collapse.

'Taking chances' with vulnerable stock, says Fogo Island fisherman

A federal panel is reviewing the Last in-First out policy amid concerns about the state of the northern shrimp stock. (CBC)

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is defending its decision to allow offshore factory freezer trawlers to catch northern shrimp this spring, even though its own scientists say the stock is vulnerable to collapse.

Inshore fishermen have criticized the fishing, because 2016 quotas have not yet been set, and could be cut significantly.

Sylvie LaPointe, the director general of fisheries resource with DFO, told CBC  the offshore fleet was given about two weeks to catch shrimp in Area 6 but the fish is a carry-over from last year.  

"Because of ice conditions that were very bad, they weren't able to harvest their available quota in 2015," LaPointe said in an interview with CBC Radio's The Broadcast.

The fleet will be allowed to take 3,200 tonnes of the 4,000 tonnes it couldn't catch last year.

'This is the bread and butter'

Glenn Best, who fishes shrimp off Fogo Island, said the so-called "bridging policy" should not have been applied in Area 6 at a time when stocks are under review.

"The [cod] moratorium would be a walk in the park compared to what's going to happen if we lose this shrimp," he said.

"This is the bread and butter. This is what sustains communities from Fogo Island to St. Anthony to southern Labrador. We need this shrimp. Why are we taking chances with it?"

The inshore fleet has organized rallies around the province, but the offshore sector has argued that it also contributes to the economy and the health of coastal communities. (CBC)

Best said inshore harvesters are angry and frustrated.

"I urge people...they should not stay quiet," he said, encouraging people to make submissions to a ministerial advisory panel that has public consultations during May and June.

Best said the offshore fleet did not catch its shrimp quota last year because they had other options, and should not be allowed to harvest the fish in a new quota cycle.

LaPointe said the bridging policy is applied to both the inshore and offshore fleets. 

"The offshore fleet tends to utilize it more because they fish year-round," she said.

"The inshore fleet could have availed of it this year, but they had very little fish remaining in the water from 2015."

LaPointe said the large trawlers were given a limited time to catch the remainder of their carried over shrimp quota —only 15 days instead of the usual 90, because of the concerns about the health of the stock.