After a dismal 2017 shrimp season that saw harvests slashed for the inshore Newfoundland and Labrador fleet, the FFAW/Unifor has strongly objected to a DFO draft rebuilding plan for Northern shrimp, recently unveiled at a meeting in Montreal.
At issue is the rebuilding targets and whether they should remain the same as the historical targets, or be adjusted due to the increased presence of cod.
If DFO continues business as usual, shrimp quotas for 2018 are likely to be the same as the current year, around 10,000 tonnes overall in Shrimp Fishing Area 6. This is similar to the levels seen in the mid-1990s before the development of the inshore shrimp sector.
There is a well-known documented oscillation effect between shrimp and cod which suggests that in periods of low cod abundance, shrimp becomes more plentiful and in periods of high cod abundance, shrimp populations are low. Both environmental factors and predation are thought to be responsible.
The FFAW charged that DFO’s proposed rebuilding plan for Northern shrimp adheres to unrealistic targets because, “the recovery objective of the current plan sets the reference point at a time when Northern cod stocks and other groundfish species were at their lowest. The marine environment is now vastly different, but this is not reflected in the reference point for northern shrimp.”
The offshore sector, represented by the Canadian Prawn Producers (CAPP), supported the DFO plan. It said that the research underway will allow for more informed decisions to be taken in two to three years and that in the interim, CAPP wants to see the continuation of the 10 per cent of the biomass harvest rate.
This is also written into the MSC certification plans for Northern shrimp.
However, the FFAW said that a higher harvest rate might be justified if the limit reference point for the stock was changed to reflect the new reality of a smaller stock.
The FFAW also charged that the offshore sector is pushing for a rapid rebuilding plan to be in place by October, to allow for financial projections to be made for the coming year. The union said that DFO has acknowledged that current reference points are inadequate, but wants to move ahead anyway.
“We will not commit to inappropriate targets,” says FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan.
“The current approach and timelines being pushed on management are unacceptable if we are to manage this stock in ways that honour conservation and sustainability.”
Inshore shrimp harvester Heather Starkes said, “DFO is proceeding with this plan while ignoring objections from inshore harvesters. We’re the largest stakeholder in this fishery. This is a big step backwards in the relationships that have been built between harvesters, science and management.”
The Newfoundland Price Setting Panel recently chose the processors offer for fall shrimp prices of $1.30/pound, rather than the union’s offer of $1.36/pound.
Last year, fall shrimp prices were set at $1.40/pound.
Summer prices had been set by the panel at $1.25, based on the FFAW’s price offer in June.