On the Waterfront – June 2017

DFO Wins Controlling Agreement Legal Challenge

In a May 5 ruling, Federal Court Justice Cecily Strickland has upheld the Department of Fisheries and Ocean’s (DFO) policy on controlling agreements between fishermen and corporations.

DFO has always maintained that individual fishermen, not corporations, are allowed to hold and control inshore licences.

However, this rule was challenged in federal court recently by of Cartwright, Labrador fisherman Kirby Elson.

Elson was appealing a 2015 decision by the minister of fisheries to strip him of his snow crab licence because he refused to exit a controlling agreement with two fish processors.

Strickland ruled the federal fisheries minister was entitled to strip a snow crab fishing licence from Elson after he refused to exit a controlling agreement with two fish processors.

Many industry observers said this ruling will help prevent the the corporate takeover of inshore fisheries in Atlantic Canada and Quebec.

2017 N.L. Shrimp Price Drops Below $1/Pound

The beleaguered Newfoundland and Labrador Northern shrimp industry received more bad news recently when the 2017 price was set at .95 cents/pound.

This is down from the average price of $1.40/pound in 2016 and $1.80/pound in 2015.

This lower price follows on the heels of recent massive quota cuts to Northern shrimp, particularly in Shrimp Fishing Area (SFA) 6.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) announced a 63 per cent cut to the inshore Northern shrimp quota in Fishing Area 6 — meaning the total allowable catch for SFA 6 went from 48,196 tonnes in 2015 to 27,825 tonnes in 2016, to 10,400 tonnes announced for 2017.

This amounted to a 78 per cent quota reduction over two years.

OCI Announces Buyout of Minority Partner

Ocean Choice International (OCI) recently announced the successful buyout of its minority partner, Landvis Canada Inc.

Two of the founders of OCI, Martin Sullivan (CEO) and Blaine Sullivan (COO), are now the sole owners, making the company 100 per cent locally owned and operated.

“This transaction is another important positive milestone for the future of OCI as a leading global seafood supplier and will give us much more flexibility to successfully carry out our growth strategy. This is a very exciting step forward for OCI, and illustrates our long-term commitment to the company, our customers, our employees and the communities in which we operate,” says Martin Sullivan.

“Throughout this process our employees, communities and customers have been incredibly supportive and, like us, can now look forward to the solid foundation this provides for our continued growth and leadership in the Canadian and global fishing industries. Providing the highest quality seafood to customers around the globe is a team effort and we thank all those on the OCI team for their passion as we all look forward to an exciting future,” says Blaine Sullivan.

Fish Processing Workers Hold Demonstration at WorkplaceNL

Workers from fish processing plants around Newfoundland and Labrador gathered at WorkplaceNL headquarters recently to call for a Fish Processing Sector Safety Council that will address the unique safety issues facing their sector.

Workers in this sector have been advocating for a sector safety council for more than a decade.

Industry statistics show that fish processing workers continue to suffer high rates of lost time and workplace injuries. The lost time incident rate for processing plant workers was 56.7 per cent higher than the provincial rate in 2014 and has steadily increased since 2012. WorkplaceNL has admitted in the past that the fish processing sector is the only sector where safety has not improved over the past decade.

“Fish processing plants can be hazardous workplaces,” said Tina Pretty, FFAW-Unifor Women’s Coordinator. “The occupational illnesses in this sector disproportionately impact women and have gone unaddressed for far too long.”

Research indicates approximately 18 per cent of fish processing workers are affected by crab asthma, an affliction unique to fish processing that stems from exposure to crab proteins found in dust, steam and vapour created during processing. This results in difficulties breathing, chest tightness, wheezing and coughing.

“We come to work carrying masks and puffers in our lunch bags. Without them, we wouldn’t make it through the day,” said Doretta Strickland, a processing plant worker from Triton. “Workers shouldn’t be forced to pay out of pocket for the tools we need just to be able to breathe while we’re at work.”

Industries with sector safety councils have generally experienced lower worker’s compensation rates and a decline in lost time and soft tissue incidence rates. Council are currently in place for forestry, construction, municipalities and fish harvesting.

The provincial government has expressed support for a standalone sector safety council for fish processing. Alone in their opposition to the council is the membership of the Association of Seafood Producers who are ignoring their responsibility, as a major employer in rural communities, to ensure a safe and healthy work environment for their employees.

“Enough is enough,” continued Strickland. “WorkplaceNL could make this right today. They have the power to create a council and take steps to make our workplaces safer. Processing workers can’t wait any longer.”

New Milestones Achieved in ASP-GEAC Northern Cod FIP

The Northern Cod Fisheries Improvement Project (FIP) led by two industry trade associations in eastern Canada announced recently they are making great progress in the work around the iconic stock, as reported at the end of their second annual Working Group meeting held in Brussels on the eve of the Brussels Seafood Show.

The Association of Seafood Producers (ASP) and the Groundfish Enterprise Allocation Council (GEAC) held their annual Northern cod FIP consultation with the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), representatives from the industry in France, the UK and Canada and representatives of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada’s Department of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.

The meeting reviewed stock status and population projections, and updated the FIP Action Plan which includes a multi-million dollar research program aimed at sustaining the recovery of the Northern cod stock complex. The program includes cutting-edge genetic study focusing on discriminating stock components, population simulation models and an extensive offshore acoustic tracking program needed to understand temporal and spatial migration patterns of different stock segments.

“With contributions from member companies and our partners including Davigel in France, High Liner Foods in the USA, our FIP — in the last 24 months — has organized and funded an expanding list of important science-based activities,” said Derek Butler, Executive Director of ASP.

“Collectively, these pieces help fill important information gaps that have long-challenged the assessment and management of this iconic resource.”

The stock itself continues to grow, though slower than projected just a year ago. It remains below the Limit Reference Point, identified as the level above which a significant fishery would be expected to resume.

“While the rate of growth in this stock since 2010 has been very encouraging, we must be mindful that this stock may encounter nature’s headwinds in the critically important next couple of years, including the impact of declining abundance of important prey species for cod, most notably capelin,” observed Jim Cannon, President of SFP. “We are cautiously optimistic, but must practice restraint with respect to catch increases until a sustainable recovery trajectory is confirmed.”

ACOA Supports Nova Scotia-Based Aquaculture Facility

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) recently announced it is investing $1 million in Sustainable Fish Farming Limited of Hants County, N.S. to increase the production of safe, sustainable Atlantic salmon and to commercialize leading-edge marine water treatment technology.

Sustainable Fish Farming Limited, in Centre Burlington, is constructing a 300 metric-tonne land-based, saltwater grow-out facility, which will bring the company’s total capacity to 500 metric-tonnes. This will enable production of Atlantic salmon year-round.

The expansion will improve the business’ competitiveness in the seafood sector and make it possible to develop new markets for a product that has already received critical acclaim from restaurateurs. The facility operates a proprietary closed containment system which recirculates water that is entirely free of contaminants, resulting in a sustainable salmon stock that is 100 per cent free of drugs and disease.

DFO Increases Access for Indigenous Groups to Southern Gulf Snow Crab Fishery

The Government of Canada used an historic increase in snow crab biomass in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence to increase Indigenous access to this fishery during the 2017 season.

Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, announced April 12 the management decision for Crab Fishing Areas (CFA) 12, 12E, 12F, and 19. The decision includes a one-time setting aside of up to 1,100 tonnes from CFAs 12 and 19 for Indigenous groups in the area to increase Indigenous access to the fishery.

The Total Allowable Catch (TAC) amount is the highest in Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence (SGSL) history because of a rare occurrence with the species which resulted in a significant increase of the snow crab biomass this year. The biomass is expected to return to normal in the following years.

The Government of Canada is using this rare opportunity to provide Indigenous communities in the area with increased access to the fishery. This decision demonstrates the Government’s commitment to reconciliation and strengthening the nation-to-nation relationship with Canada’s Indigenous peoples. Providing additional access to the fishery in 2017 will provide economic benefits to Indigenous groups in the area and the means to build capacity and secure more permanent access in coming years as traditional fishermen retire from the industry.
Current harvesters will also see significant benefits during this particularly lucrative year, including a historic increase in quota and forecasted market value.

DFO met with industry and Indigenous groups during the SGSL Snow Crab Advisory Committee meeting on February 28, 2017 and March 1, 2017. Discussions included establishing the 2017 TAC using the harvest decision rules, a renewed collaborative agreement to conduct the snow crab trawl survey, and other key management measures.

The TAC for Crab Fishing Areas (CFA) 12, 12E, 12F, and 19 has been set at 43,822 tonnes (t) for 2017, in line with DFO’s Precautionary Approach and harvest decision rules developed in collaboration with industry and Indigenous groups. In 2016, the TAC for these areas was set at 21,758.96 tonnes.

The 2017 TAC constitutes the highest in history in the Southern Gulf, however science has indicated the biomass levels will return to normal for the 2018 fishery.

The large increase in the TAC is a result of a high number of crab that did not moult in 2015, resulting in a decreased TAC in 2016. Subsequently, the 2015 cohort moulted in 2016 and is responsible for the current increase in biomass of commercial size snow crab for 2017.

Courtesy of Discovery Canada

Cold Water Cowboys Season Four Kicks Off

Captains and crews of Discovery’s Cold Water Cowboys have reprised their fight against unforgiving Atlantic waters in season four.

This season will bring some new faces, with others notably absent. Lifelong fisherman and son, Calvin and Kurtis Kerrivan and fourth-generation Skipper Lee Pond, join Rick Crane, Morris Anstey and Paul Tiller for an all-new, eight-episode season of the original Canadian series.

From Paperny Entertainment, the eight-part series follows the brotherhood of five colourful captains and their crews aboard fishing boats, as they cast their nets in the North Atlantic hundreds of miles offshore. It’s a tough job — tough on boats, tough on gear, and tough on the human body — but these bred-in-the-bone fishermen wouldn’t have it any other way.

Joining the cowboys this season are lifelong fisherman Calvin Kerrivan and his son, Kurtis. Based in Placentia, N.L., this father and son team head offshore to the far reaches of the continental shelf for an unusual set of fisheries. From whelk to sea cucumber, the duo are leading the way in new and highly profitable markets.

Closer to shore, there is a new boat in town, the Jacob Louisa skippered by Lee Pond, a fourth-generation fisherman. Aggressive and passionate, Lee pushes his crew to exhaustion in order to land the most fish in the bay.

Iceland’s Cod Stock at Highest Level Since 1985

The cod stock in Icelandic waters is larger than at any time since the Marine Research Institute (MRI) started monitoring stocks of pelagic fish around Iceland in 1985.

A new report released by the MRI covers fish population statistics taken in February and March this year. The average weight of cod older than seven years is heavier than last year, but the average weight of younger fish has dropped between years. The overall cod stock has grown almost constantly since 2007 and is now the highest since records began in the mid-80s. Cod is Iceland’s most important commercial fishery.

The greater number of large cod in the stock is part of the reason for the stock growth, though the inhabited area was also larger this year than in many previous research trips; with good cod coverage all the way around Iceland.

The populations of cod, redfish and ling were high compared to the average of the last three decades, the report states.

International Climate Change Study Underway

A team of scientists from six countries — with a unique Memorial University connection — departed from St. John’s on April 27 on a trans-Atlantic voyage that’s studying the impact of climate change on the ocean.

The research being conducted onboard the Celtic Explorer is a Global Ocean Ship-based Hydrographic Investigations Program (GO-SHIP) survey, being led by the Marine Institute of Galway, Ireland. Marine Institute of Galway is a partner in the newly- formed Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI), co-founded by Memorial University of Newfoundland, University of Prince Edward Island and Dalhousie University.

Established in the fall of 2016 through $220 million in funding from the Government of Canada and various private and public sector organizations, OFI supports multi-year research projects at the universities. The research voyage represents the first step in the OFI partnership to explore sustainable ecosystems in the Northwest Atlantic and builds on a long-term relationship between Memorial University’s Marine Institute and the Marine Institute of Galway.

“Those supporting the voyage on-board and on-shore are global experts, working to identify how climate change is impacting our oceans, which is a global issue,” said Doug Wallace, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Ocean Science and Technology, Dalhousie University and researcher, OFI.

“The challenges associated with the changing climate are too large-scale and complex for one institution, one research sector or even one country to tackle alone,” Dr. Wallace continued.

“Improving our scientific understanding and developing strategic and effective solutions for safe and sustainable ocean development requires sharing of expertise, international co-operation and exchange of data and best practices. And that’s what this voyage is all about.”

Funding Announced for Regional Aquaculture Centre in the Coast of Bays

A new Regional Aquaculture Centre is being developed in the Coast of Bays region by the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University.

This new centre will further Marine Institute’s efforts to facilitate the growth of the fisheries and marine sectors through education, training, applied research and development, and technology transfer.

A total of $131,500 in funding from the Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation will assist the Marine Institute in the development of the new centre. The Department of Fisheries and Land Resources has also provided $25,000 for the development of the new centre.

This Regional Aquaculture Centre will direct its activities around labour market research with industry to help identify and develop training programs for the aquaculture industry.

Report Raises Concerns Over Bycatch

A report released May 3 from Oceana Canada, entitled Collateral damage: How to reduce bycatch in Canada’s commercial fisheries, reveals how poorly Canada is managing one of the biggest threats to our oceans.

The catch of non-target fish and ocean wildlife, or bycatch, results in unnecessary waste and harm to sea life, the report said, adding that Fisheries and Oceans Canada has not taken the steps necessary to monitor or address this serious threat.

“Up to 10.3 million tonnes of sea life is unintentionally caught each year around the world, captured in nets, lines and other gear. Some of this is kept and sold, or released safely; but far too much is put back in the ocean, either dead or dying. In Canada, this includes endangered and threatened species like whales, turtles, sharks and fish. For example, an estimated 1,200 endangered loggerhead turtles are caught each year on pelagic long lines in the swordfish fishery.”

Oceana Canada’s report revealed that there are big holes in Canadian data, that the regulatory approach is inadequate and that hundreds of species end up as bycatch. For example:

  • The North Atlantic swordfish fishery discards approximately 44.8 per cent of its catch, including threatened and endangered sharks and sea turtles, as well as dolphins and whales.
  • The Eastern offshore lobster fishery discards approximately 22 per cent, including endangered species like Atlantic cod and Northern wolffish.
  • The Pacific halibut fishery discards approximately 45 per cent, including endangered basking sharks.

“What Canadians might not realize is that their ‘catch of the day’ may have impacted other, endangered species such as sea turtles or whales,” said Josh Laughren, Executive Director, Oceana Canada.

“The federal government does not accurately track bycatch in far too many of our fisheries, and the information that is available shows that it threatens the health and abundance of many of Canada’s marine species, including some of those most at risk.”

The report recommends that Fisheries and Oceans Canada release a national plan to:

  1. Count everything that is caught in a fishery, including bycatch species;
  2. Cap the amount of wasted catch in each fishery using science-based limits;
  3. Control and avoid bycatch by making improvements such as using more sustainable fishing gear;
  4. Protect endangered and threatened species so their populations can recover.

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