Nova Scotia concerned over possible change to northern shrimp quota

Nova Scotia wants a federal panel reviewing the northern shrimp quota off Newfoundland and Labrador to maintain a policy that protects the interests of the fishery’s pioneers.

The panel, which is scheduled to hold a hearing Friday in Halifax, is examining whether the Last-In, First-Out policy should be continued, modified or scrapped as shrimp stocks decline.

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Provincial Fisheries Minister Keith Colwell said the northern shrimp fishery was actually developed several years ago by Nova Scotia’s offshore fleet and accounts for a large part of the overall shrimp catch, which is worth $131 million to the province.

Under the current policy, the last entrants to a fishery are the first to leave when a quota is cut.

Colwell said any drastic change to the rules would be unfair and would have a major impact on a fleet with a heavy investment in the fishery.

“Some of these boats are $60 million to $80 million and some of them are relatively new, so it would be a pretty significant impact on the industry overall,” said Colwell.

He said he had also expressed concerns to federal fisheries officials about the composition of the panel, which has three members from Newfoundland and only one from Nova Scotia.

Colwell didn’t reject the notion when asked whether the deck was stacked against his province.

“It’s hard to say,” he said. “I would hope not. We believe that the (federal) minister has the final decision on whatever change, if any change is made.”

The fisheries union in Newfoundland and Labrador has said the policy could spell the end of the shrimp fishery in that province.

The Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union says smaller inshore trawlers in the province are bearing almost all of the burden of cuts in the shrimp quota, and is urging Ottawa to make changes.

Colwell said because the stocks are depleted it’s clear that something has to change, although he believes that can be done to everyone’s satisfaction within the existing agreement.

“Last-In, First-Out was a good approach – it has worked for a long time. Now that the stocks are reducing they want to review it again and hopefully it will be positive for Nova Scotia when they are done.”

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