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A matter of choice for future of rural economy

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Last week, we received some of the most distressing news about the fishery since the moratorium. The inshore owner-operator northern shrimp fishery, which is confined to the waters adjacent to the northeast coast of Newfoundland and south coast of Labrador, is being threatened with destruction as a result of poor management and a sharp decline in the stock.

In 2015, the inshore shrimp fishery directly contributed approximately $250 million to the NL economy. Much of this value originates in rural NL, paying wages to thousands of harvesters, processing workers and truck drivers, and providing profits to processing companies. Indirectly, the economy of the shrimp fishery keeps schools, businesses, and municipalities sustainable.
According to the stock status update received this week, the fishable biomass in shrimp fishing area (SFA) 6 has declined by 41 per cent over the past year. The entire inshore northern shrimp quota is harvested in SFA 6.
The scope and impact of this decline is shocking when viewed from a practical perspective. In 2009, the inshore fishery had a SFA 6 quota of 131 million pounds. If the stock update is accurate and the management regime does not change, the inshore quota in SFA 6 will be reduced to 13 million pounds.
There are over 1500 harvesters — enterprise owners and crew members — engaged in the owner-operator northern shrimp fishery. A 13 million pound fishery is not economically feasible. These harvesters are now staring down unemployment and bankruptcy.
There are also more than 1,500 workers in 10 shrimp processing plants that may also be out of a job. It is difficult to foresee more than a couple plants operating with a 13 million pound quota.
Behind these numbers is a terrible reality for rural NL. The harvesters, the plant workers, and the plants are the economic and social fabric of communities and regions. If they are removed, there is nothing to fill that void.
The bad news of this week is also the result of choice. For years, the federal government has shown preference towards the offshore fleet, which is owned by large corporations, many with significant foreign ownership. Under this policy of preference, the communities of rural NL have been sacrificed for corporate and shareholder profits.
If the federal government stood up for the people of rural NL, we could overcome this difficult time. If the federal government moved the offshore fleet out of SFA 6, the inshore would be left with a smaller shrimp fishery, but it would survive. And in time, without the damage of a winter offshore shrimp fishery during important spawning periods, the shrimp fishery in SFA 6 could be protected.
As the northern shrimp issue takes centre stage, it is important for the public to understand that this is a matter of choice. The federal government can choose to permit economic devastation to rural NL, or they can choose to show that rural works – that there can be rural jobs, economic development and vibrant, sustainable communities.
Lastly, it is also important for the public to understand that we are not seeking the destruction of the offshore fleet. There is plenty of room for the offshore fleet in the northern waters of other fishing areas where they first started in 1977. After all, the guaranteed offshore allocation in SFA 6 is only 13% of the 2015 offshore quota.
But there is no room for an offshore shrimp fishery in the traditional fishing grounds of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
Keith Sullivan, president,
Fish Food and Allied Workers union

In 2015, the inshore shrimp fishery directly contributed approximately $250 million to the NL economy. Much of this value originates in rural NL, paying wages to thousands of harvesters, processing workers and truck drivers, and providing profits to processing companies. Indirectly, the economy of the shrimp fishery keeps schools, businesses, and municipalities sustainable.
According to the stock status update received this week, the fishable biomass in shrimp fishing area (SFA) 6 has declined by 41 per cent over the past year. The entire inshore northern shrimp quota is harvested in SFA 6.
The scope and impact of this decline is shocking when viewed from a practical perspective. In 2009, the inshore fishery had a SFA 6 quota of 131 million pounds. If the stock update is accurate and the management regime does not change, the inshore quota in SFA 6 will be reduced to 13 million pounds.
There are over 1500 harvesters — enterprise owners and crew members — engaged in the owner-operator northern shrimp fishery. A 13 million pound fishery is not economically feasible. These harvesters are now staring down unemployment and bankruptcy.
There are also more than 1,500 workers in 10 shrimp processing plants that may also be out of a job. It is difficult to foresee more than a couple plants operating with a 13 million pound quota.
Behind these numbers is a terrible reality for rural NL. The harvesters, the plant workers, and the plants are the economic and social fabric of communities and regions. If they are removed, there is nothing to fill that void.
The bad news of this week is also the result of choice. For years, the federal government has shown preference towards the offshore fleet, which is owned by large corporations, many with significant foreign ownership. Under this policy of preference, the communities of rural NL have been sacrificed for corporate and shareholder profits.
If the federal government stood up for the people of rural NL, we could overcome this difficult time. If the federal government moved the offshore fleet out of SFA 6, the inshore would be left with a smaller shrimp fishery, but it would survive. And in time, without the damage of a winter offshore shrimp fishery during important spawning periods, the shrimp fishery in SFA 6 could be protected.
As the northern shrimp issue takes centre stage, it is important for the public to understand that this is a matter of choice. The federal government can choose to permit economic devastation to rural NL, or they can choose to show that rural works – that there can be rural jobs, economic development and vibrant, sustainable communities.
Lastly, it is also important for the public to understand that we are not seeking the destruction of the offshore fleet. There is plenty of room for the offshore fleet in the northern waters of other fishing areas where they first started in 1977. After all, the guaranteed offshore allocation in SFA 6 is only 13% of the 2015 offshore quota.
But there is no room for an offshore shrimp fishery in the traditional fishing grounds of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
Keith Sullivan, president,
Fish Food and Allied Workers union

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