FISH-NL challenges federal Fisheries Minister to meet with harvesters his government is starving out

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 5th, 2017 

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) says the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans appears oblivious to the hardship facing inshore harvesters this year as the result of punishing quota cuts and severe industry downturn.

Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL, challenges the Minister to visit some of the rural communities directly impacted, and meet with harvesters his government is starving out.

“The Minister should go to places like Anchor Point and Twillingate and explain to harvesters how they’re expected to get by when so many of them have nothing left to fish,” says Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL. “Harvesters are being starved out.”

Ottawa slashed the quote for northern shrimp off the island’s northeast coast and southern Labrador (known as Shrimp Fishing Area 6) by 63 per cent in early April. The impact on harvesters is devastating, particularly given the price of shrimp is also down.

In 2017, inshore harvesters have access to 55,000 pounds of shrimp per licence. At 95 cents a pound, that works out to $52,250. Meantime, in 2016 harvesters had access to 148,000 pounds of shrimp per licence, which sold for $1.40 a pound, and worked out to $207,200.

That amounts to a one-year income decline of $154,950 per licence. Some harvesters say it’s not worth going fishing at all this year, with many are facing personal bankruptcy. 

About 50 shrimp fishermen stormed their way into DFO’s NL headquarters in St. John’s in early April, and demanded a change in the inshore shrimp-sharing arrangement. The harvesters left when DFO gave them a letter confirming the department would take their concerns into consideration.

While the federal Minister has yet to formally announce the shrimp-sharing arrangement for 2017, an FFAW official texted shrimp harvesters Thursday to say there will be no change.

“From what I can find out, the sharing arrangements have not/will not change, the best efforts of our committee were wasted when a crowd broke out the windows in DFO,” said Bobby Nobel, Vice-Chair of the FFAW’s 3K South Shrimp Committee.

“The decision that was historically made in NL had to be moved to Ottawa because of the fuss in St Johns, and the minister is not impressed with the violence.”

Cleary said the fact that the northern shrimp quota experienced a one-year quota cut of almost 63 per cent is yet another condemnation of the DFO’s management abilities.

“The Minister may not be impressed, but he’s not facing bankruptcy and the loss of his livelihood.”

On April 11th, FISH-NL made a detailed presentation to the province’s federal Liberal caucus in Ottawa, including proposals on how to deal with the current fisheries crisis (http://www.fish-nl.ca/presentation). Crab quotas are also down, and while groundfish stocks such as cod are on the rebound they’re still in delicate shape. Cod also isn’t near as lucrative as shrimp or crab. 

Included in FISH-NL’s proposal is a recommendation that DFO allow flexibility in this year harvesting rules, including allowing harvesters to buddy up. 

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