Nova Scotia

Northern shrimp policy change by Ottawa hurts Nova Scotia fishermen

Federal Fisheries Minister Dominic Leblanc has settled a fishing dispute in the Atlantic region that benefits Newfoundland fishery at expense of Nova Scotia industry.

Federal fisheries minister's decision on dispute in the Atlantic region sure to anger Nova Scotian fishermen

Fshermen are facing a quota cut as the northern shrimp stocks off Newfoundland have plummeted. 1:07

Federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc released his decision today on a fishing dispute in the Atlantic region, a move that is sure to anger Nova Scotia shrimp fishermen.

Ottawa announced it is abolishing the "last in, first out" policy, known as LIFO. The policy has steered the quota system that's been in place in the northern shrimp fishery for the past 20 years. Nova Scotia fishermen were among the pioneers of that fishery off the northern coast of Newfoundland. 

"LIFO is not a sustainable instrument of public policy," LeBlanc said in a statement. 

"And should be replaced be replaced by a system of proportional sharing for the future."

The fisheries department says the once-abundant shrimp stocks off Newfoundland have plummeted 41 per cent in the last year alone. As a result, quota cuts are coming.

$131 million fishery

During its heyday, the northern shrimp fishery was worth $131 million in Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia shrimp trawling companies argue that since they were the first ones in the fishery, back in the 1970s, they shouldn't have their quotas cut.

They said that Newfoundland licence holders, which started fishing there in the late 1990s, should be eliminated instead. Under then now-abolished LIFO policy, they were the "last in" and would be the "first out" when it came to quota cuts. 

Shrimp on the Mersey Phoenix, a factory freezer trawler owned by Mersey Seafoods of Liverpool, N.S. (Andrew Titus/Mersey Seafoods)

After a round of hearings with fishermen—mostly in Newfoundland—a federal panel recommended in late June that the federal minister abolish LIFO.

LeBlanc accepted the panel's recommendation, saying Newfoundland fishermen should not be shut out of a fishery directly adjacent to their province.

Opposed by Nova Scotia 

Nova Scotia's fisheries minister, Keith Colwell, has urged Ottawa not to abolish LIFO.

"Last in, first out protects the offshore fleet who were the original participants in the fishery and it needs to remain," he said last month. 

Andrew Titus is the captain of the Mersey Phoenix, a Nova Scotia-based factory-freezer shrimp trawler. He has described a change to LIFO as a "direct hit" to his employer. Mersey Seafood is one of four Nova Scotia companies involved in the northern shrimp fishery. 

"They want to kick us out of an area where we have been fishing since 1978," Titus told CBC.

About the Author

Preston Mulligan has been a reporter in the Maritimes for more than 20 years. Along with his reporting gig, he also hosts CBC Radio's Sunday phone-in show, Maritime Connection.

With files from Paul Withers

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