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SEA-NL demands DFO unify 3L snow crab fishing zone; owner-operators urged not to back down

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Tuesday, March 28th, 2023


Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) demands DFO immediately unify inshore and offshore snow crab fishing areas off eastern Newfoundland into a single biomass, and explain to the entire inshore fleet why the department set out to divide them in the first place.

“DFO disrespects the entire inshore sector in fishing zone 3L by favouring bigger boats over smaller boats in the same fleet,” says Ryan Cleary, SEA-NL’s Executive Director.

“DFO must reveal the science behinds its decision to divide the crab fishing zone in the first place,” added Cleary. “The absence of science or questionable science at best tells smaller boat owner-operators the department wants their enterprises eliminated.”

“The FFAW-Unifor must also explain why the union waited until the eve of the 2023 snow crab season — which already faces turbulent waters in terms of negative talk about price — to raise public objections.”


DFO has implemented a so-called precautionary approach (PA) management system this year for snow crab in fishing zone 3L (from Bonavista Bay on the east coast to St. Mary’s on the southern Avalon) that includes separating biomasses for inshore and offshore boats in the same fleet.

Two separate biomasses means snow crab quotas for boats in the under 40’ sector have remained relatively static compared to the over 40’ sector that has been awarded larger quotas.

Under DFO’s questionable PA system, the under 40’ sector also faces larger quota cuts when the stock declines.

In a letter to federal DFO Minister Joyce Murray in April 2022, former FFAW President Keith Sullivan urged her to reconsidered the PA system for 3L.

He wrote the entire 2022 snow crab quota for fishing zones 3LNO rose by 7,292 tonnes — with the under 40’ fleet receiving just 561 tonnes or 7.7% of the increase.

Sullivan also said that there are 841 snow crab allocations in the smaller boat fleet and 364 for the larger boat sector of the fleet, and questioned why 3L is divided into two assessment divisions while fishing zone 3K to the north and 3Ps to the south are not.

Keith Sullivan unexpectedly resigned from the FFAW in December, and the union had been silent on the PA system until last week when protests began.

Led by Bay Bulls inshore fisherman Jason Sullivan, former president of SEA-NL, smaller boat owner-operators in the 3L fleet protested last week at DFO headquarters in St. John’s, the provincial legislature, and at a downtown hotel where their union and processors were negotiating the reintroduction of a pricing formula for snow crab.


Another protest is scheduled for this morning at DFO’s headquarters in the White Hills, despite the fact the DFO Minister has said the department may reconsider the PA system in 3L next year.

“Owner-operators must not back down until the Minister changes the PA system,” said Cleary. “DFO isn’t known for following through on its promises, and the credibly of its science is questionable across the board. Owner-operators are urged to keep up the pressure until commitments are in stone.”

“Immediate reforms to the PA system for 3L aren’t about taking away from bigger boats in the inshore fleet because the resource is in good shape across the entire zone. It’s about fairness to all boats — big and small.”


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