The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) is calling for an immediate halt to the fishing of northern shrimp by factory-freezer offshore trawlers in waters off Newfoundland’s northeast coast and southern Labrador until stocks rebound.
In light of an expected dramatic cut to the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of northern shrimp in the area known as Shrimp Fishing Area (SFA) 6, FISH-NL is requesting that the federal government reserve the limited quota solely for the inshore fleet, and ban fishing altogether when shrimp are spawning.
Further, FISH-NL is requesting that Ottawa assign a quota of northern shrimp to the inshore fleet in SFA 5 further north off Labrador.
“Priority must be given to the inshore harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador — the economic pillars of our rural communities adjacent to the northern shrimp resource,” says Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL. “The inshore fleet is totally reliant on SFA 6.”
Earlier this year, federal scientists recommended a 62.6 per cent cut to the TAC in SFA 6, dramatically reducing the overall quota to 10,400 tonnes from 27,825 tonnes, FISH-NL said in a press release.
The biomass of female shrimp in SFA 6 is in the critical zone. The fishable biomass — the weight of all commercial-sized male and female shrimp — declined to 104,000 tonnes in 2016 from 785,000 tonnes in 2006. There was a 25 per cent decline from 2015 to 2016 alone.
“With the limited shrimp resource we have left there’s only enough room in SFA 6 for one fleet,” said Boyd Lavers, Captain of FISH-NL’s over 40-foot fleet. “As far as I’m concerned the offshore has to go for the inshore to survive.”
In 2016, there were 249 active inshore enterprises involved in the northern shrimp fishery, supplying product to eight onshore plants, compared to 17 offshore licences with quota caught by 10-12 factory-freezer trawlers.
In July 2016 the federal government eliminated the last in, first out (LIFO) policy, replacing it with a proportional sharing arrangement of quota between inshore and offshore fishermen. As a result, inshore vessel operators received 69.6 per cent of the quota, while offshore trawlers took 23.1 per cent.