Along with FFAW-Unifor leaders, four fish harvesters were in front of the cameras at a news conference at the FFAW’s office in St. John’s Wednesday.
All four working in the inshore fleet — Chris Rose, operating out of St. Anthony; Robbie Green, out of Old Perlican; Heather Starkes, Carmanville; and Ren Genge, Anchor Point — expect their enterprises and home port communities to be devastated by shrimp quota cuts they see on the horizon.
Fish harvester Heather Starkes says cut in inshore shrimp quotas will harm local businesses
Formal plan for 2016 shrimp season may take until June
FFAW, offshore shrimp fleet at odds
“I lose the shrimp, I’m out (of the fishery),” Rose said. He has five crew members and family to support.
Genge estimated 60 shrimp-dependent boats in his area, plus four fish plants on the island’s Northern Peninsula will all be placed at risk if quota cuts are made under the Last In, First Out (LIFO) policy.
Under LIFO, 90 per cent of any quota cut would go to the inshore fleet, versus what the FFAW calls the “offshore,” with its larger boats and full-year operations. The larger boats also fish areas further North.
Partly because of their reach, the FFAW is now calling for the offshore fleet to be kicked out of fishing area six — the only area inshore harvesters can go for shrimp.
The decision is simple, according to FFAW president Keith Sullivan: commit that area to the inshore and maintain 3,000 direct jobs, or let large swaths of the provincial fishery die off, sending fish harvesters into bankruptcy and more shellfish for processing in Iceland, Greenland and Norway.
“Ultimately, we have the federal government and fisheries minister in Ottawa who could make a choice,” he said. “Is it going to be a strong rural economy? Is it going to be these thousands of jobs in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, or are we going to protect the corporate offshore sector, who don’t supply the same amount of advantages to our people and to our economy?”
Executive director of the Canadian Association of Prawn Producers, Bruce Chapman, challenged the latter statement and told The Telegram the choice is also a false one.
The offshore fleet fuels more than 1,500 onshore jobs in 116 communities in the province, he said. Severe cuts to offshore quota would also threaten jobs held by local workers, jobs he argued that are based on more financially stable enterprises at the end of the day, more viable in the long-term.
In terms of fairness, he said the inshore fleet’s quota in Area 6 jumped from essentially nothing to just under 60,000 tonnes at peak (2009) and still stood at over 31,000 tonnes last year, even after more recent cuts. The offshore, on the other hand, moved from roughly 11,000 tonnes in 1996, to peak at just under 17,000 tonnes (2009) and land at 13,000 tonnes.
“You can see from these numbers the large growth that occurred in this area went predominantly to the seasonal fleet,” he said.
And yet, it does not change the position of the inshore fish harvesters, who are facing an individual cap in 2016 that would be too low to fish economically.
The northern shrimp advisory committee, including fish harvesters, received word last week that preliminary estimates with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans suggest as much as a 40 per cent drop in shrimp biomass in fishing area six.
Federal Fisheries Minister Hunter Tootoo has ordered an immediate, full stock assessment and look at management policy.
The FFAW is asking no quotas be set, even interim quotas, before the results are in.
Whatever decisions are made, Chapman warned a changing environment and significant drop in available stock mean no winners in the end.
“There’s just not enough to support everybody,” he said. “You’re going to have pain either way.”
FFAW-Unifor to rally Thursday
St. John’s — Bella Vista, 24 Torbay Rd., 10 a.m.
St. Anthony — Lion’s Club, West Street, 10:30 a.m.
The union executive and membership are welcoming the public at both events.