FISH-NL asks federal Fisheries Minister to investigate Labrador shrimp allocation

FISH-NL wrote federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc in November to request his department investigate a committee representing inshore harvesters on the Labrador coast that oversees an allocation of northern shrimp. To date (Dec. 13th), LeBlanc has yet to respond. 

 

Nov. 16th, 2017

The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc 

Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard,

Ottawa, Ontario 

K1A 0G6, 

Canada

dominic.leblanc@parl.gc.ca

Dear Minister,

I’m writing on behalf of Curtis Heard, an inshore fisherman from Cartwright, Labrador who’s calling for an investigation into the Under 40’ Inshore Affected Cod/Crab Fishers Cartwright to L’Anse au Clair Committee.

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has granted the committee an annual allocation of northern shrimp since 2003, although the inshore fleet has never caught the shrimp. 

Instead, the allocation — which has been set at 1,945 tonnes for 2017/18 — is caught by the Labrador Fishermen's Union Shrimp Co. Ltd. in Shrimp Fishing Area (SFA) 5 off Labrador, with individual inshore harvesters paid an annual royalty in the vicinity of $25,000. 

However, the committee is accused of operating without any oversight, and answering to no one. Further, it has never been clear what criteria were initially used to determine which inshore harvesters were eligible for royalties from the northern shrimp allocation.

In Mr. Heard’s case, the committee informed him several years ago he wasn’t eligible for the shrimp royalty.

However, while the committee has clearly stated “any enterprise owner who does not meet the criteria shall have the opportunity to appeal to an independent appeal panel,” Mr. Heard’s request to appeal has never been granted. 

On Jan. 27th, 2011, the committee agreed to new eligibility criteria for the northern shrimp royalty (criteria that were supposedly signed off on by DFO’s regional headquarters), including:

1) Core enterprise holder.

2) Holder of <35’ enterprise for two years prior to May of 2003, or have been eligible to hold a co-operative development shrimp permit.

3) No new entrants to the shrimp royalties.

4) Enterprise owners in the <40’ fleet shall be active during the fishing season. Active is defined as participating in fishing activity for which the enterprise is licensed during the same season as most other enterprises in the area (generally June 1 to July 31st).

5) Enterprise owners are not permitted to be employed on a full-time basis outside the fishery.

6) Eligibility will be reassessed on an annual basis. Activity of an enterprise owner in a given year shall not affect the eligibility of that enterprise owner to receive royalty payment in subsequent years. 

7) Any enterprise owner who does not meet the criteria shall have the opportunity to appeal to an independent appeal panel.

8) Eligibility for benefits is re-issuable through a complete enterprise transfer and through combining. 

9) Corporations are not eligible to receive benefits, only core enterprise holders. 

In 2003, Mr. Heard understood that a key eligibility requirement was that enterprise owners had to own fishing vessels up to 34’11 in length. In 2011, that requirement was extended to vessels under 40 feet in length, in line with changes to vessel replacement rules. 

Mr. Heard has learned that some harvesters who are currently in receipt of royalties from the northern shrimp allocation — including members of the committee itself — don’t even meet the 2011 eligibility criteria.

For example, he charges that inspections of some fishing vessels have been falsified to state that 45-foot vessels are actually 39’11s, so that the owners meet the eligibility criteria. Mr. Heard also alleges that royalty recipients may not be core enterprise owners. 

News is also circulating on the Labrador coast that the Labrador Fishermen’s Union Shrimp Co. Ltd., along with the NunatuKavut Community Council, has proposed buying out inshore harvesters of their share of the northern shrimp allocation for as much as $350,000 a piece — a move that would seem to contravene the intent of the federal government’s owner operator/fleet separation policy.

As President of the Federation of Independent Sea harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL), and on behalf of Mr. Heard, I urge you, as Minister, to investigate the committee and its eligibility criteria, and to immediately halt the possible sale of the northern shrimp allocation until such investigation is complete. 

Sincerely,

 

Ryan Cleary,

President, FISH-NL