In January, Rod Cornick secured his five-person shrimp fishing crew for the coming season.
© — Photo by Geraldine Brophy/The Western Star
Fisherman Rod Cornick was on hand during during a demonstration Tuesday at the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans office in Corner Brook to protest the reduction in the shrimp quota.
In late March, the fisherman from Port au Choix finalized the purchase of a shrimp fishing enterprise valued at $1.6 million.
Just days later, Cornick and every other shrimp harvester found out the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) was planning to reduce the shrimp quota for inshore fish harvesters.
For Cornick, the cut translates into seeing the 625,000 pounds he had been banking on catching this season reduced by 200,000 pounds. He paid $1.50 per pound to buy that quota, so the reduction means he has to take a hit to the tune of $300,000.
That’s why he was with about 50 other shrimp harvesters from the Northern Peninsula who trekked Tuesday to the DFO office in Corner Brook to protest the cuts.
“I’m operating on a fine line anyway because of the costs affiliated with catching shrimp,” Cornick told The Western Star during a sit-in that shut down the Joseph R. Smallwood Building, which houses DFO and other federal government offices.
“To lose 200,000 pounds of product before we even get started is putting us on the brink of bankruptcy before we’ve even started.”
Cornick had worked in the shrimp industry as a deckhand with his brother for 20 years before going into the seine fishery on his own for the last 10 years. When the chance came to get back into the shrimp industry as the owner of an enterprise, he went for it.
He and the other harvesters at Tuesday’s protest don’t want all of the shrimp for themselves. They just want their fair share of the total allowable catch, Cornick said.
“I respect science, but, if I get cut, everybody across the board should be cut evenly,” he said. “I can live with it then. But for us to take 80 or 90 per cent of the cut is not sensible. It’s unreasonable and I hope we’ve got the balls to do something about it and curtail those bureaucrats in Ottawa.”
This was the second time in three weeks the shrimp harvesters who toil in the northern Gulf of St. Lawrence were at the DFO office in Corner Brook to voice their frustrations over the quota cuts.
Jason Spingle, the staff representative for the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union, which represents the harvesters, said the union and its members will keep the pressure on until they feel there is a fair and stable arrangement for sharing the shrimp quota.
Spingle said he hopes support from an all-party committee struck by provincial politicians to address the issue and the backing of municipal governments concerned about the negative impact of less money circulating through their economies will help get the message through to federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea.
“We’re not going to be stopping until we feel we’ve got a decision we can move forward with, and it’s certainly not the one the minister has now,” said Spingle.
The harvesters say there is inequality between allocations for the inshore and offshore sectors. Spingle said the offshore quotas have been virtually unscathed and, if the current trend continues in years to come, the inshore shrimp harvest will soon be history in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Cornick, who said he now has to consider laying off some of the crew he promised work to just a few months ago, said he has no choice but to execute the shrimp fishery this year. But he agreed the future of the inshore fishery is at stake with cuts like this.
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow,” he said.
The Western Star