Halibut harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador are calling on the federal government to address the previous government’s wrongs by establishing fair quota allocations for Gulf of St. Lawrence halibut.
This week, representatives of FFAW-Unifor will make a presentation to the Gulf Groundfish Advisory Committee reviewing halibut allocation decisions made since 2007.
“Previous sharing agreements have resulted in significant and disproportionate reductions in quota for Newfoundland and Labrador harvesters,” said Keith Sullivan, President of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW-Unifor). “The federal government must use this review as an opportunity to right the wrongs of the previous government, who manipulated these agreements for political gain.”
Between 2014 and 2015, halibut quota for Newfoundland and Labrador harvesters only increased by 9.3 per cent while Prince Edward Island, home province of then Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Gail Shea, saw an 87 per cent increase in quota.
Prior to 2007, NL harvesters had a significant and increasing percentage of the total fixed gear catch in 4R3Pn. In 2007 other provinces requested that the quota in the area be shared. Despite having a mandate to base the agreement on historical participation levels, which would have maintained a substantial share for NL, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada adjusted the formula to minimize the NL share. Subsequent decisions have further eroded this share.
West coast harvesters have some of the lowest earning opportunities from the fisheries and are heavily dependent upon Atlantic halibut. On the south coast, harvesters in 3Ps, who were not given consideration for their historic share of halibut, hope to supplement difficult cod and crab fisheries with an improved halibut catch.
“The sustainability of coastal communities is reliant on a strong inshore fishery,” continued Sullivan. “Fishery management policies must be more reflective of historical attachment and economic dependence.”