Tuesday, May 6, 2014

'Adjacency will be respected', so much for consistency in DFO management

An all-party committee from Newfoundland and Labrador travelled to Ottawa this week to change the northern shrimp allocation so quota cuts are balanced between the inshore and offshore sectors. 

Mr. Ryan Cleary (St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NDP): Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you for the witnesses traveling here from Newfoundland and Labrador. Your testimony before this committee is critical.

    Taking a look at Fred Mifflin's press release—the former Minister of Fisheries and Oceans—from 1997 when he announced new entrants into this fishery, new inshore entrants. He's quite clear in terms of adjacency. He says, “Adjacency will be respected which means that those who live near the resource will have priority in fishing it.”

    It's quite clear, there's no mention, as your testimony has already outlined, there is no mention then of LIFO. I have two questions. The first is, to what degree the inshore fishery of Newfoundland and Labrador relies on other fisheries outside of shrimp. We know that cod, for example, has taken a hit in the last few years. The price of cod that a fisherman earns, I believe, is only about $.50 a pound, and crab has also taken a hit. What other species, what other fisheries do our inshore fishermen—our traditional inshore fishermen—have to rely on. That's the first question.

    And the second question—I want to get my questions out before you go because we have limited time—my second question is with these four points that you brought up, Mr. Hutchings, in terms of eliminating LIFO, adjacency, scientific assessment, and a plan to study the impact of climatic change. Specifically in regards to number three, which is the scientific assessment of northern shrimp. My question is, in terms of the management, in terms of the science right now on northern shrimp—we had a witness here from the seafood processors association—you mentioned that we do do assessments. DFO only has two scientists that are focusing in on northern shrimp but can you elaborate on why a scientific assessment is critical at this point?

    Hon. Keith Hutchings: Mr. Cleary, your first question is related to the capacity, or what else is there for the inshore fisher, in regards to their moving on from where [unclear]. There are other species certainly, whelk, sea cucumber, mackerel, herring, turbot, that make up that enterprise. Some of that haul is the shrimp allocation, and access to the inshore is extremely important. That varies from regions of the province, as you probably know.

    The challenge here with this actual issue we're facing is that some of the enterprises that left only have shrimp left and it's going to be devastating for them, in regard to a reduction this year, and any future reduction under LIFO. You're talking about taking that enterprise out because they've invested after 2007 as indicated in regards to the permanent stakeholders, they have nothing.

    In regard to those other enterprises, shrimp is part of that enterprise and they have other varied species. When we're growing our fishing industry we need enterprises with multi-species and we can't afford.... If we lose them through science, in this particular case it needs to be equally distributed so everybody shares some of the pain.

    In regard to your recommendation 3, as a province we've always had concerns over the past number of years in terms of what we've seen is a pull back from DFO in regard to science and research, to the point where we as a province have invested heavily in science and research in Newfoundland and Labrador, certainly for the centre for eco-research at marine institute, and looking at that ecosystem research and science. Not looking at specific species, but the interaction to species and what that means. You make decisions based on the interactions of those species. It's extremely important.

    I think when we say this, this is what we're talking about, this is where we need to get to, we need to start that, it should have been done yesterday collectively by DFO. We need to start at least now. We're doing our part, we've entered into areas that are under federal jurisdiction in regard to science because we know it's a priority. We just think it's apparent if we go forward to manage the fishery and have proper fishery management science and information to make those decisions.

    Mr. Dwight Ball: First of all, to go back to your first question there, Mr. Cleary, as you know in our province there are very little opportunities within all those species. We're seeing challenges and pressures put on the biomass. It started with crab, as you mentioned.

    There are not a whole lot of other options for people when you look at the ten plants that we spoke about here today, that primarily rely upon shrimp to make them viable. It's not as if they could actually have another option that they could easily got to.

    To your second question about the science and the importance of science, what we know that this is an interconnected ecological fishery that we're talking about here. Historically we've seen, if cod stocks are lowering will you see an increase in shrimp? Right now we're just seeing this transition taking place right now, or this is what people are telling us.

    It's extremely important that we get the benchmarks in place so that we can properly assess and get an evaluation on how the stocks actually look. Not just in the shrimp stocks of course, but in all other species it's important that we get those benchmarks in place because without that science it's really just a guess.

    Ms. Lorraine Michael: I'll just add two points, I won't repeat what's been said.

    In the presentation we heard from the Fogo co-op. They will be absolutely devastated by the loss of their shrimp quota. It was quite telling to see their presentation, to listen to their presentation, quite frightening. I'll just put that much out.

    With regard to the scientific assessment, from my perspective, and I think all of ours, what we're talking at is getting real facts on the table, really looking at what really is happening. We have decisions that are being made, it appears to us, based not on facts and based not on the principles that were laid out by [unclear] and we think that has to end. I hope that we'll see a reason for that with us being here today.

    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Cleary.

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