CANADA - The Federal Government’s unwillingness to consider alternatives to its “Last In, First Out” (LIFO) policy continues to threaten the economic well-being of rural communities that depend on northern shrimp.
Mr Keith Hutchings, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture and Chair of the All-Party Committee, was joined by Mr Dwight Ball, Leader of the Official Opposition, and Ms Lorraine Michael, Leader of the New Democratic Party, in discussions yesterday with Ms Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, but received no indication that the Federal Government would act on any of the committee’s recommendations.
“The Federal Government’s unwillingness to dialogue about how to share declining northern shrimp resources in a way that protects the economic interests of all those who depend on it has been very frustrating.
"The federal stance on this vital issue demonstrates a complete disregard for more than 100 communities in which inshore shrimp harvesters and plant workers reside. For a government that prides itself on economic stewardship, its performance in this matter has been shameful,” said Mr Hutchings.
It took more than three months for Minister Shea to commit to meeting the all party committee. Immediately after the meeting, Minister Shea issued a statement that summarised the Federal Government’s position and criticised the Provincial Government, indicating the outcome of the meeting had been predetermined.
This statement included a number of inaccuracies that require correction. Minister Shea continues to claim that “In-shore fleet members have received 90 per cent of all increases to the shrimp quota since 1998,” even though the facts presented to her by the committee prove this is untrue.
The in-shore fleet received 90 per cent of all increases to the shrimp quota in area six only.
There are eight fishing areas numbered “zero” to “seven,” and the offshore fleet was the sole or principal beneficiary from substantial increases in most of those other fishing sectors – areas where the in-shore fleet has no access.
The Federal Government’s assertion that the inshore fleet has almost exclusively enjoyed increases to shrimp allocations is fiction.
“The lack of cooperation exhibited by the Federal Government on a more equitable sharing arrangement for our northern shrimp resources is abhorrent to sound judgment.
"The significance of having an all party committee advocate on behalf of plant workers and harvesters seems to have been lost on Minister Shea.
"It is evident that the Federal Government has very little concern for the impact that its decisions are having on the livelihood of inshore shrimp harvesters and the communities which will be impacted in our province,” said Mr Ball.
Minister Shea’s assertion that the Provincial Government has not taken steps to support an industry-led rationalisation of the fishery is also untrue, and is a sad reflection of the minister’s lack of knowledge about this province’s fishing industry.
With respect to supporting rationalisation in the harvesting sector, the Provincial Government’s Fisheries Loan Guarantee Program has provided more than C$40 million to support vessel and licence combining by harvesters over the past two years alone, supporting significant consolidation of enterprises.
In the processing sector, the Provincial Government has helped identify which provincial plants are viable and productive by establishing a policy that if a processing licence in not used in one of two consecutive years, it is permanently cancelled.
Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province in Canada to have introduced such a policy. When plants have closed, the Provincial Government has provided support to displaced workers and their communities through its C$10 million investment in the Fish Plant Workers Employment Support Program.
In 2007 there were 143 licensed plants in the province; in 2013 that number was reduced to 86, and in the shrimp sector, the number of plants has been reduced from 13 to 10.
For its part, after a delay of four years, the Federal Government supported rationalisation by encouraging harvesters to combine their inshore operations by providing tax incentives and improved access to capital, but then undercut those efforts with a LIFO policy that dramatically reduces the amount of catch available to those highly leveraged harvesters.
“I am quite disturbed that Minister Shea refuses to acknowledge the facts about the impact of continuing with the LIFO policy.
"The deliberate attempt to cloud the issue by her questionable comments regarding rationalisation shows the minister either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care about what her decision to stand put on LIFO means for the people of this province.
"The spectre of the potential closure of fish plants and bankruptcies for inshore harvesters means nothing. LIFO is the new rationalization,” said Ms Michael.
The Provincial Government remains united with industry in seeking the best possible outcome for the provincial shrimp sector, but requires federal cooperation to advance the best interests of more than 2,200 plant workers and more than 250 small boat enterprises that stand to be impacted by quota cuts.
TheFishSite News Desk
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