FFAW slams DFO on shrimp quota

Andrew Robinson
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FFAW president Earle McCurdy. — Telegram file photo

Says allocation favours offshore sector over inshore harvesters

The head of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) union says cuts to the inshore quota for northern shrimp amount to “skull duggery.”

Meeting with reporters Monday at the FFAW’s office in St. John’s, president Earle McCurdy accused the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) of unfairly favouring the offshore sector, despite the fact harvesters with the inshore fleet have adjacency to the resource.

“There was what’s called an integrated fisheries management plan that’s supposed to guide the future of the fishery,”McCurdy said.

“It’s supposed to be a living document worked out between DFO and the industry. In fact, what happened is there’s a select group within industry that had unprecedented and exclusive access to key decision-makers in DFO and slanted the management plan very much in their favour.”

The inshore quota has dropped from 45,300 tonnes in 2013 to 33,876 this year — a decline of 26.2 per cent. Over the last 15 years, it represents the lowest inshore allocation ever for northern shrimp.

By comparison, the offshore sector’s portion of the quota is down only 3.6 per cent compared to 2013 — from 66,224 tonnes to 63,789 in 2014.

DFO research has indicated the biomass for northern shrimp is in decline. The overall total allowable catch (TAC) for 2014 is 115,891 tonnes, down 13.1 per cent from 2013. McCurdy said the special allocation that makes up the remainder of the TAC for this year is mostly handled by the offshore sector.

When the TAC was last at a level comparable to what it is now — 111,240 tonnes in 2002 — the inshore sector’s share of the quota was 39. 6 per cent. It will be 29.2 per cent in 2014.

In 2009, the inshore allocation exceeded the offshore one, but the ratio has favoured the offshore sector every year since, according to data provided by the FFAW.

At its peak, the inshore northern shrimp fishery has provided employment for 1,500 people on boats and more than 2,000 in fish plants.

McCurdy noted that unlike the offshore sector, where product can be landed and sent elsewhere without adding value to Newfoundland and Labrador, shrimp harvested inshore is processed in local plants. In light of the quota cut, he expects some of those plants will face hardships this year.

“The amount of cut just from last year is the equivalent of more than two fish plants’ production. So if two of those plants close tomorrow, the remaining plants still have less to go around than last year, and last year they didn’t have enough.”

McCurdy also takes exception to the application of DFO’s first in, last out (LIFO) policy with respect to the northern shrimp quota.

“The integrated fisheries management plan for northern shrimp does not define LIFO. (DFO) did not even make mention of LIFO until 2003, when it said LIFO would apply to access.”

The northern shrimp fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador first opened as an offshore fishery in the late 1970s. An inshore fishery was introduced in 1997 following a population explosion for the stock.

The FFAW is planning to hold a protest later this week.


Twitter: @TeleAndrew

Organizations: Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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