Nfld. & Labrador

Transfer of halibut to P.E.I. 'high-seas robbery,' N.L. MP says

Politicians and fishing industry players in Newfoundland and Labrador are accusing federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea of redistributing a fish quota to benefit her own province.

Politicians and fishing industry players in Newfoundland and Labrador are accusing federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea of redistributing a fish quota to benefit her own province.

In an innocuous-looking statement earlier this week, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced new measures for allocation of bycatch quotas of halibut in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Earle McCurdy, president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union, said a closer inspection shows that Newfoundland and Labrador's loss will be the gain of Shea's home province of Prince Edward Island.

"What she's really done is rob Peter to pay Paul and make sure that Peter gets a really good shaft and Paul is in her district," McCurdy told CBC News Thursday.

Most of the allowable Gulf's groundfisheries bycatch — the amount of a species that regulators will allow harvesters to take from the water when they're pursuing something else — was not caught last year.

DFO has redistributed 108 tonnes of that quota in equal portions to six fleets in the Gulf.

Gerry Byrne, a Liberal MP whose riding covers much of western Newfoundland, said the decision is unfair, as the Newfoundland fleet is the largest by far, and has a greater stake in the fishery than anyone else.

"There's not even a semblance of fairness. This is high-seas robbery," Byrne said in an interview from Ottawa.

Under the reallocation, Newfoundland and Labrador's fleet loses about a third of the quota that it had last year. Among the other fleets, the one in P.E.I. more than doubles.

In April, Shea faced similar accusations, when DFO was considering transferring some of the northern shrimp quota, which is caught off Newfoundland's northeast coast, to a consortium based in P.E.I.

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