Nova Scotia

Shrimp quota change may be 'disastrous' for Nova Scotia fishery

A massive decline in northern shrimp stocks off the northeastern coast of Newfoundland could cost Nova Scotia fish companies millions.

Most of a federal panel supports ending last in-first out policy that benefited Nova Scotia fishery

Northern shrimp stocks in Area 6 declined more than 40 per cent from 2014 to 2015. (Robert Bukaty/Associated Press)

A massive decline in northern shrimp stocks off the northeastern coast of Newfoundland could cost Nova Scotia fish companies millions.

That has one Nova Scotia fishermen worried about his own commitment to buy a $60-million factory freezer trawler that could fish year-round.

"Changing the ground rules at this point in time could have a disastrous impact upon us," said Liverpool's Ulf Snarby.

With partners in New Brunswick and Labrador, he has been fishing northern shrimp off the northeastern coast of Newfoundland, called Area 6, since 1977.

"We're going on year number 40."

A Nova Scotia company is planning to invest in a new shrimp trawler, but is worried it's about to lose business. (Robert Bukaty/Associated Press)

Review panel decides soon

The federal government has created an external panel to review the northern shrimp quota policy, holding seven hearings, including one in Nova Scotia. Three of the four panel members have recommended abolishing the last in-first out convention that benefits Nova Scotia shrimp companies. The final decision is expected any day.

The last in-first out fishing convention means those fishermen who started fishing shrimp last would be the first asked to leave the fishery, if quotas are reduced as expected.

Fishing area struggle

Snarby's company, MV Osprey Ltd., was among the first of the Nova Scotia fish companies to develop the shrimp fishery in Area 6 in the late 1970s.

Nova Scotia fish companies now account for 35 per cent of the northern shrimp quota. A group of inshore fisherman from Newfoundland joined the fishery in the late 1990s.

A map of northern shrimp fishing areas. (DFO)

41 per cent drop

Fishable shrimp stocks declined by 41 per cent in Area 6 from 2014 to 2015, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans reported in January

With that dramatic decline in the stock, many in the industry expect quotas to be reduced.

That's caused a fight to brew between fishermen in Newfoundland and those in Nova Scotia over who can fish what's left.

Rural industry at risk

Along with much of the federal panel, Newfoundland inshore fisherman are urging Ottawa to abandon the last in-first out convention, to protect fishermen and 10 shrimp processing plants in the province's coastal communities. That argument doesn't sit well with Snarby.

"The fact is, they have way too many [Newfoundland] plants," he said.

"Now that the quota is coming down, they want to kick us out and take our portion of the quota — wrapping themselves in the flag of adjacency."

Newfoundland fishermen have been protesting to change shrimp quotas to protect rural industry. (CBC)

'Adjacency ball' dangerous, fisherman says

The lucrative shrimp fishery may be geographically closer to Newfoundland, but Snarby argued Nova Scotia fish companies pioneered it, turning it into an industry worth $131 million a year to Nova Scotia.

Newfoundland has been lobbying Ottawa to leave its share of the shrimp quota intact because the fishing grounds are "adjacent" to Newfoundland.

That's true, Snarby said, but pointed out that 17 per cent of the Nova Scotia offshore scallop fishery is owned by Newfoundland interests.

"If they want to kick this adjacency ball around, just imagine the nightmare that they will open up," he said.

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.