Fate of Northern Shrimp Fishery in Hands of Ministerial Advisory Panel
After a month of public consultations, the four-person ministerial advisory panel (MAP) studying the controversial Last-In, First-Out policy (LIFO) for the Northern shrimp fishery, has submitted its report to the federal fisheries department.
The purpose of the meetings is for the panel to obtain advice from organizations, interested parties and other stakeholders on whether LIFO should be continued, modified, or abolished. And not surprisingly, the arguments over LIFO, for the most part, were split down provincial lines.
As predicted, the majority of presenters at the Newfoundland and Labrador meetings were in favour of abolishing the decades-old policy, while speakers at the only Maritime location in Halifax were nearly unanimous in maintaining LIFO.
Kicking off the Panel meetings in St. John’s was the Newfoundland and Labrador’s Government’s All-Party Committee on Northern Shrimp Allocations, recommending that the LIFO policy be discontinued and the offshore fleet should no longer have access to shrimp fishing area (SFA) 6.
“The All-Party Committee has remained steadfast in its position that LIFO is not fair and disproportionately impacts the inshore fishery. It is not used anywhere else in Canadian fisheries and it is imperative that LIFO is abolished in favour of a different arrangement that is a more balanced approach for shrimp resources. The All-Party Committee has reviewed LIFO in-depth and our alternative which will see the inshore fleet only having access to SFA 6 ensures the viability of both the inshore and offshore sectors,” stated N.L. Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Steve Crocker
Further to the removal of offshore harvesting from SFA 6, the All-Party Committee recommended that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans also provide permanent allocations to all special allocation holders, as well as special consideration to established social enterprises.
The All-Party Committee remained committed to eliminating LIFO in favour of this arrangement, which respects long-standing fisheries allocation principles of adjacency, historical dependency on fishery resources, fleet viability and economic and community development, Crocker went on to say.
The Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW) also continued its campaign against LIFO at the Panel hearings.
FFAW president Keith Sullivan said if, what he called a “flawed policy” is maintained in 2016, it will lead to loss of 3,000 good paying jobs in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.
“If the offshore loses its quota allocation in SFA 6, it will cost 54 jobs. The offshore is viable and sustainable without SFA 6. The inshore will be destroyed,” Sullivan said.
Numerous SFA 6 inshore shrimp fishermen also stepped up to the microphone, all conveying the same message — the LIFO policy must be abolished once and for all.
Nelson Bussey told the panel the LIFO policy should be changed because inshore fishermen will see a bigger cut in shrimp quotas, compared to offshore trawlers.
“We’re okay with the process… as long as everyone has their input, and at the end of the day justice is done,” he told media after presenting at the St. John’s hearing.
“For the offshore, if they lose area 6, they’ll still go on as normal because they have all the zones to the north… if we lose area 6, we’re out of the fishery.”
Andrew Daley said inshore fishermen such as him have been fighting for fair shrimp quotas for the last 25 years, while at the same time investing heavily into their enterprises.
“To have a sustainable fishery, the inshore fleet needs all of SFA 6. The policy has to be changed. How can we keep the fishery going if there is nothing left to catch? We can’t lose another industry. We can’t afford to lose shrimp. We can’t go to the other areas to fish like the offshore (fleet),” Daley passionately told the Panel.
Despite the majority of the Newfoundland presenters asking for LIFO to be set aside permanently, there were a few individuals that stepped up in defence of maintaining the status quo — Mike Noel of Harbour Grace was one of them.
Noel is chief engineer on a Clearwater offshore shrimp dragger and emphasized to the gathering that he is not a foreigner, nor the enemy. He said the vast majority of workers employed in the offshore shrimp industry are from Newfoundland and Labrador — all making a good living and contributing greatly to the local economy.
This argument was echoed in the presentation by the Canadian Association of Prawn Producers (CAPP), which represents the interests of the offshore shrimp fleet.
CAPP executive director Bruce Chapman said the consequences of excluding the year-round fleet from SFA 6 and reallocating the entire 11,050-tonne shrimp threshold quota to the inshore fishermen is not the panacea some make it out to be.
He noted that the impact of handing over the SFA 6 quota to the inshore would only create an additional seven to eight fishing days per vessel, lead to 650 extra hours for 220-290 seasonal workers earning $8,000-$9,000 each by maintaining 1.5-2 plants — equivalent to less than 97 full-time employees.
However, he explained that the impact to the offshore fishery would have far more drastic consequences.
Chapman said there would be an immediate loss of 130 high-paying jobs and place 570 direct jobs as risk. There would also be a reduction in the financial ability to support “royalty payments” of some $30-million/year that supports the inshore fishery and community infrastructure — especially in the far north.
The pro-LIFO message was also very prevalent when the panel meetings concluded in Halifax in early June.
Nova Scotia’s Minister of Fisheries urged Ottawa to maintain the existing allocation system to protect an industry worth $131 million in the province.
“Nova Scotia companies relied on that protection when they agreed to expand the fishery,” said Keith Colwell in a statement issued on the eve of a federal hearings in Halifax.
“Last-In, First-Out protects the offshore fleet who were the original participants in the fishery and it needs to remain.”
Andrew Titus, captain of the Nova Scotia-based offshore trawler Mersey Phoenix, said Mersey Seafood’s has been using larger boats in Area 6 since 1989. He told the panel the Nova Scotia company took a big risk investing in a new industry.
“Unfortunately, the (inshore) fleet is too large,” he said. There are 10 offshore trawlers and enough inshore boats (256) to match the capacity of 80 offshore vessels, he said.
The Panel also heard that New Brunswick’s offshore fishery would be “wiped out” if the federal government abolishes LIFO.
“Coming from New Brunswick, we cannot accept that adjacency will be the overarching principle on which resource allocation will be made, otherwise we are wiped out of the fisheries,” said Jean St Cyr, a policy analyst for two offshore shrimp license holders, Caramer Limited and Lameque Offshore Fishing Limited. Both are based on the Acadian Peninsula.
St Cyr maintained the policy would leave New Brunswick fishermen only with access to inshore herring and lobster off its own shores, shrinking their participation in the Atlantic fisheries.
On April 18, DFO announced the Ministerial Advisory Panel (MAP) to carry out the external review of the Department’s Last-In, First-Out policy (LIFO) for the Northern shrimp fishery.
The panel members included Barbara Crann, Wayne Follett, Paul Sprout and Trevor Taylor.
The MAP, guided by a chair, was to offer advice if LIFO should be continued, modified or abolished for the 2016 season and beyond.
The written report to the Minister was to be provided in French or English and a final copy was to be provided to the Senior Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) of Ecosystems and Fisheries Management (EFM) no later than June 15, 2016.
Meanwhile, the 2016 Northern shrimp spring price was recently released. This season fishermen will get a minimum price of $1.22/pound. This is down from the 2015 blended spring price of $1.40/pound.