Union hopes concerns on quota cuts will be heard in Ottawa
The premier of Newfoundland and Labrador and the province’s fisheries minister met with representatives from the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) union Tuesday to discuss the impact of recent cuts to the inshore northern shrimp allocation.
Both the union and the provincial government were quick to criticize the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ 26 per cent reduction to the inshore quota for 2014 when it was first announced earlier this month, taking particular exception to a perceived inequality between allocations for the inshore and offshore sectors.
Speaking with The Telegram after the meeting, FFAW president Earle McCurdy said Premier Tom Marshall confirmed he will relay the province’s concerns to Ottawa.
“He gave us a good chunk of his time and we had a very good discussion on the issue and the importance of it to rural Newfoundland and Labrador,” said McCurdy.
The offshore allocation for northern shrimp was reduced by 3.6 per cent compared to 2013. The inshore sector’s share of the allocation — 29.2 per cent — is the lowest it’s been within the last 15 years.
“It’s a path to oblivion they’ve put us on now,” said McCurdy, who contends DFO is unfairly favouring the offshore sector when it comes to harvesting northern shrimp stocks.
In an April 8 interview with The Telegram, DFO fisheries management plans director Sylvie Lapointe said the last in, first out (LIFO) policy dictates how the federal government manages a declining fish stock. The offshore fishery predates the inshore northern shrimp harvest, the latter of which McCurdy says was introduced in 1997.
Lapointe said the LIFO policy was developed in the late 1990s and enforced ever since. McCurdy, however, contends that Fisheries Minister Gail Shea has absolute authority when it comes to deciding allocations.
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“There is no definition of LIFO in DFO. It’s not in the fisheries management plan for shrimp. It’s not in their general policies. The bureaucracy applied a particular interpretation at certain points in time and are now trying to say that’s the only way things can be done. Well, the department has an adjacency policy. What they’re doing flies in the face of adjacency.”
DFO has cited warming water temperatures as a possible contributor to both declining northern shrimp stocks and rebounding groundfish stocks. McCurdy reckons that even if there is potential for a groundfish harvest to ease the burden for inshore shrimp harvesters, that will not happen overnight.
“That will be a gradual opportunity. Allowing us to take advantage of future growth in the groundfish parcel will depend on how the industry is managed in the meantime and allowing us enough time to have a fighting chance of still being in business when that takes place.”
The Telegram contacted the office of provincial Fisheries Minister Keith Hutchings Tuesday, but he was attending a constituency event after Tuesday’s meeting with FFAW and could not be reached for comment.
McCurdy said the union will soon meet with the recently formed all-party committee in Newfoundland and Labrador tasked to examine the impact of the quota cut. It is also requesting a chance to speak with members the federal Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans in Ottawa.