FFAW’s stance on shrimp allocations criticized

Union spreading untruths for own benefit, prawn association director says

Josh Pennell Josh.pennell@thetelegram.com
Published on April 28, 2014

The Fish, Food and Allied Workers’ (FFAW) union is putting a spin on northern shrimp quota allocations for its own benefit, according to the executive director of the Canada Association of Prawn Producers.

Bruce Chapman says that the FFAW’s contention that DFO is unfairly favouring the offshore sector when it comes to northern shrimp stocks isn’t true.

“I believe they’re taking this stance because their version, their support base, is with small boat inshore fisherman,” Chapman says.

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.

In a new release this week from Chapman, he says conditions made in the 1990s between the province and DFO meant inshore shrimp quotas were always to be reduced in the inshore when the stocks started to drop.

According to the release, new entrants into the northern shrimp fishery in the 1990s were mostly inshore cod fishermen from this province who were looking to revamp their fishing careers following the collapse of the cod fishery. They were given the bulk of new quotas in the expanding shrimp fishery, and the larger offshore shrimp vessels who had established the shrimp fishery got smaller increases. However, Chapman wrote, as the shrimp stocks dropped, the deal was that the new entrants would give up more of their quotas than the larger vessels.

The FFAW’s criticism of DFO on its doing just that ignores the deals that were made in the 1990s, Chapman says.

“There were a lot of untruths being circulated,” Chapman says of the union’s stance on the shrimp allocations that were being discussed in the media last week.

But while the FFAW’s fighting for the inshore fisherman makes sense for the union, because that’s the bulk of their members, Chapman says, it doesn’t recognize that ignoring the quota allocation policy and reducing the quotas of the offshore traditional shrimp licence holders would also mean ignoring the numbers of jobs that would be lost to the people of this province because of it. The offshore shrimp sector employs 800 people directly, according to Chapman’s release, and most of those are filled by people living in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. Moreover, the release says the combined annual salaries of those offshore workers is two to three times that of the inshore fishery, even when that fisheries EI payments are included.

“Under the union’s plan, the jobs of these professional harvesters are to be sacrificed, and hundreds of million of dollars are to be taken away from businesses and economies of rural communities in Newfoundland and Labrador, including northern/aboriginal communities,” Chapman says in the release.

The release also states that money brought in from the offshore shrimp sector is reinvested in rural communities to support inshore operations in northern communities.

McCurdy met with Premier Tom Marshall recently to discuss with him the importance of the inshore shrimp quotas to rural Newfoundland and Labrador so Marshall could take their arguments to Ottawa. DFO has cited warming water temperatures as a possible contributor to both declining northern shrimp stocks and rebounding groundfish stocks.