Shrimp quota cuts will cost jobs, hurt Newfoundland and Labrador outports: union

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – A “massive” federal cut to the northern shrimp quota will drain big money from outport communities along with badly needed jobs, says the head of a Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries union.

“It will mean $70 million going out of communities,” that rely on the sector, said Keith Sullivan, president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW-Unifor). “Shrimp is one of our biggest, most important fisheries.

“The sheer volume of the cut certainly means a lot of pain for people in the industry,” he said Friday in an interview.

The 42 per cent reduction should have been phased in to take conservation concerns seriously while allowing the industry to transition to growing groundfish stocks, Sullivan added.

He said shrimp last year accounted for about $250 million of the province’s fishery, worth a total of $1 billion. At least 5,000 jobs are directly or indirectly affected at a time when other sectors of the economy are struggling.

The oil price crash since mid-2014 has hammered the province’s offshore sector and government finances. A deficit of $1.8 billion is forecast this year despite sweeping tax hikes and fee increases.

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) says the total allowable catch for Area 6 is being reduced to 27,825 tonnes as shrimp stocks decline.

“You have to imagine it’s going to be very tough for some processing facilities and obviously the people who rely on those jobs,” Sullivan said.

The announcement comes just after Ottawa scrapped its Last In, First Out approach to eastern shrimp quotas — under which Newfoundland’s inshore fleet would have borne much of the reduction.

It’s a welcome move, Sullivan said. “But we hope DFO could understand communities better and phase in a cut like this over two years so industry and communities could adjust.”

Offshore fleets will now get just over 23 per cent of the quota, the inshore fishery almost 70 per cent, and the rest is to be shared by St. Anthony Basin Resources, Innu and Fogo Island fishermen.