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One rule for inshore, another for offshore; DFO breaks from policy in setting northern shrimp quota

Fisheries and Oceans increased the 2022 shrimp quota off northern Labrador — shrimp fishing area (SFA) 4 — for the offshore fleet by 35% over last year, despite the fact department policy caps annual increases at 15%, a rule that was enforced in 2021 on the inshore fleet.


Last week, DFO set the 2022 northern shrimp quota in SFA 4 off northern Labrador for the offshore fleet at 8,720 tonnes, a 35% increase over last year's 6,444 tonnes.

But DFO's own management plan states "changes in the TAC (total allowable catch) should generally not exceed 15% of the previous TAC, unless the stock is declining precipitously."

In fact, in 2021 the inshore fleet — which fishes mostly in shrimp fishing area (SFA) 6, from southern Labrador to Newfoundland's northeast coast — expected a 42.3% quota increase (in line with a DFO science estimate), but was limited to 15%.

That cap cost the inshore fleet — which has struggled in recent years as the result of severe quota cuts.— an estimated 5 million/lbs (2,266 tonnes) of shrimp.

SEA-NL wrote then federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Bernadette Jordan to overturn her decision, but the minister later turned down the request.

Jordan said she wanted a 15% limit on quota increases across the board regardless of whether a shrimp stock is in the critical, cautious, or healthy zones of DFO's Precautionary Approach management system.

Why would DFO limit a quota increase at 15%in SFA 6, which is mostly fished by the inshore fleet, but allow a 35% jump in SFA 4, which is mostly fished by the offshore?

DFO has some explaining to do.

SEA-NL has posed the question with DFO officials in St. John's, and will post an answer when/if we get one.

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, and, of course, favouritism of one fleet over another is unacceptable.

While the inshore shrimp fleet is made up of roughly 200 license holders, the 17 offshore shrimp licences in Eastern Canada are fished by factory-freezer trawlers greater than 100 feet in length.

Indigenous interests hold 37% of the quota off northern Labrador in SFA 4.

Northern Indigenous interests also hold 26% of the northern shrimp quota held by the 17 offshore licences.

This year's 9,430-tonne shrimp quota in SFA 6 is an 89% drop from 2008 when the quota reached 85,725 tonnes.

This year's spring shrimp price has been set at $1.42/lb.


Ryan Cleary

Executive Director, SEA-NL


To read more about SEA-NL, and for owner-operators to join please visit our website or e-mail sea-nl@outlook.com Please sign SEA-NL's petition to the House of Commons on non-core commercial fishing licences here.

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