Fisheries Minister Keith Hutchings says now is the time for the province to seek greater control of fisheries management in the wake of a massive 10,000-tonne cut to the province’s shrimp quota.
Fisheries Minister Keith Hutchings. — Telegram File Photo
Hutchings said he doesn’t dispute the need for a cut to shrimp quotas, but the province definitely doesn’t support the last-in-first-out (LIFO) policy, which will see the bulk of the quota reductions fall to the inshore fishing fleet.
“We understand the science and what the biomass is saying in terms of the science, and recognize there needs to be cuts, but just that this needs to be shared out between the two sectors to lessen the pain a little bit,” Hutchings told reporters.
In the legislature Monday, the Liberals came demanding answers from the government on the shrimp cuts.
“These cuts were expected for months and they are devastating to our offshore operators and could affect up to 2,200 plant workers. In response to this the minister said that we will ask the feds to revisit the decision,” Liberal Leader Dwight Ball said.
“I ask the premier: aside from asking the feds for these cuts to be revisited, what is your plan to fight for the workers in the (fishery)?”
Hutchings responded, saying that the government has been fighting against the LIFO policy for years because it unfairly puts the cuts on inshore boats instead of the larger offshore vessels.
But that wasn’t good enough for the Liberals.
“In 2006, the federal government had been promising joint management for our fisheries,” Ball said.
“They specifically said they would work with interested provinces for a system of increased provincial management. However, eight years later there is still no joint fisheries management in our province.”
Hutchings didn’t say why the government hasn’t already been seeking joint management of the fishery, but he said that he’d start pushing for it now.
Speaking to reporters after question period, he said that in a way, the government has already been involved in quota setting by talking with the federal government and making requests and suggestions on fisheries policy.
Hutchings also pointed to the government’s multi-million dollar investments in fisheries science research in recent years as a way that it’s been getting involved.
He said that work gives the province an added credibility and a justification to have a seat at the table.
“There’s pillars now that weren’t there before in the past, and with all that in place, we think now is a good time to re-engage in that discussion,” he said.
“Look at the fact that some of the satellite cod tagging we’re doing, I understand no one else is doing that. That’s leading-edge innovation.”