The Newfoundland and Labrador Independent Fish Harvesters Association (NLIFHA) is extremely concerned that its members are again facing major potential cuts to their shrimp quotas based on the latest reports on the status of the resource.
The NLIFHA was formed in 2004 and covers an area of 170 multi-species fish harvesters in the larger vessel fleet sector in the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) division 3K fishing area in North eastern Newfoundland. Many of the association’s enterprises heavily rely on shrimp as an important part of their livelihood.
Recent indications from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) science suggest that the fishable shrimp biomass in shrimp fishing area (SFA) 6 could be down as much as 40 per cent compared to the 2015 levels.
Fishable biomass refers to the weight of the shrimp that is available to be harvested during the commercial fishery. This will result in the fourth consecutive year of decreased quotas for the inshore harvesters. In fact, the portion of the SFA 6 total allowable catch (TAC) allocated to the 3K harvesters has declined by 21 per cent since 2013. Over the same period of time, offshore shares have only decreased by 7 per cent.
The disproportionate cuts in quota are a result of DFO’s Last-in-First-Out (LIFO) policy, which was implemented to protect the offshore shrimp fishery from quota cuts. If this policy is continued it will result in the inshore harvesters again taking the brunt of any quota decreases. These continued reductions will jeopardize the viability of our members’ enterprises. The association’s president, Lyndon Small, explains: “Since the closure of the groundfish fishery in the early 1990’s, our harvesters have invested significantly in their enterprises to be able to harvest shellfish species including shrimp. These investments are at risk as the resource continues to decline despite DFO reducing quotas in each of the past number of years. Unlike in some other areas, we have been facing large cuts to both our shrimp and crab quotas. In light of these decreases, it is important that DFO immediately consider opening or increasing alternative fisheries, particularly cod and turbot, so that we can offset the declines in our fishing incomes.”
Between 2007 and 2014, the cod biomass off the coast of Newfoundland grew by over 1,300% from 17,000MT to 238,000MT. In addition to this increase, cod are also being found, during research expeditions in areas where they have not been detected since before the fisheries closure, including within the 3K boundary. “With the rapid increase in cod biomass we can understand why the shellfish resources have declined at the rate that they have as we fishermen see firsthand the increasing abundance of cod on the fishing grounds” says Small, noting the fact that groundfish are known predators of both shrimp and snow crab.