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DFO went outside its own rulebook to lower NL's 2021 shrimp quota, documents confirm

Owner-operator inshore shrimp harvesters lost an estimated 5 million/lbs (2,266 tonnes) of shrimp this year because Fisheries and Oceans limited the quota increase at 15% when the department's own rulebook allowed for a 42.3% jump. DFO was also prepared for push-back.

This year's northern shrimp quota off southern Labrador and northeastern Newfoundland was set at 9,534 tonnes — 2,266 tonnes less than expected.


The province's inshore shrimp fleet (made up of roughly 200 licence holders) fishes mostly off southern Labrador and northeastern Newfoundland in shrimp fishing area (SFA) 6, which is deemed to be in the “critical zone” under DFO’s precautionary approach management system.

DFO science recorded an increase in the Area 6 spawning stock of 42% between 2020 and 2021, and harvesters expected a corresponding increase in quota to 11,800 tonnes.

Instead, DFO set the 2021 quota for Area 6 shrimp at 9,534 tonnes, limiting the year-over-year quota increase to 15% — even though such limits to quota increases in critical zones aren’t mentioned in DFO’s Integrated Fisheries Management plan, which outlines the department’s “rules” for managing the shrimp stock.


DFO expected push back.


'THERE WILL BE NOISE FROM THE FFAW'

The above e-mail was included with documents obtained by SEA-NL through the federal Access to Information Act.


Much of the push back actually came from SEA-NL, which first made the issue public, and wrote a letter to federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Bernadette Jordan asking her to reverse her decision.


SEA-NL wrote about it here: SEA-NL calls on federal Minister to reverse decision limiting increase to northern shrimp quota


In a June 16th response letter, the minister acknowledged that harvest rules for stocks in the critical zones do not limit increases in total allowable catch (TAC) to 15%.


However, she noted there is such a 15% limit for the shrimp stock when it is in the cautious or healthy zone.


"Where the SFA 6 stock is in a critical state, it would not be prudent to implement a higher TAC increase than what is prescribed in the cautious or the healthy zone given our sustainability goals."


SEA-NL takes the stand that when DFO doesn't follow its own rules it leads to uncertainty, instability, and frustration in the fishing industry.


This year's 9,534 shrimp quota for SFA 6 is an 88% drop from 2008 when the quota reached 85,725 tonnes.


The summer price of shrimp was set in mid-June at $1.10/lb. SEA-NL wrote about it here: Shock and disappointment; summer shrimp price $1.10/lb


This year's shrimp fishery is pretty much wrapped up — find landings here — but Sept. 9th is the deadline set by the province’s fish price setting panel for the negotiation of the fall price.


Can't make it up.


Ryan Cleary,

SEA-NL


Independent licensed owner-operators are encouraged to join SEA-NL here. These blog posts will be public for a limited time, before becoming exclusive to the membership.


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