GREAT NORTHERN PENINSULA, NL. – It’s another year of uncertainty for harvesters and plant workers in shrimp fishing area 6.
On Feb. 16, DFO released findings that northern shrimp stocks in area 6 had declined another 16 per cent from last year.
The stock remains in the “critical” zone.
This information came following a year when inshore harvesters saw a 63 per cent quota cut.
If the stock decrease is a sign that more quota cuts are coming, it’s looking like another difficult year for local harvesters and plant workers.
Chris Rose of St. Carol’s is an inshore shrimp harvester. He is the owner and skipper of the Ashley and Brothers, a 65-footer.
He says the information from DFO is “worrisome.”
At the peak of the shrimp industry, with his two licenses, he had 1.3 million pounds of shrimp to catch.
Last year, with all the cuts, he says he had just 180,000 pounds.
Rose had to submit two claims for employment insurance for the first time ever last year after all the cuts.
And now it looks like numbers will go down again.
“I’ll be very surprised if it don’t,” he told the Northern Pen.
As for the long-term prospects in area 6, he believes there will always be a shrimp fishery.
“I can’t see us being squeezed out of it altogether,” he said. “I’m just gonna have to go after other species (too).”
And that’s what Rose has been doing.
He has been fishing crab and cod and, last year, had to move into turbot for the first time.
He hopes to see an increase in groundfish quotas to offset cuts in shrimp.
Rose also believes a buddy-up system needs to be put in place where two separate licenses can team up aboard a single operation.
Vanessa Kelly, a plant worker in Anchor Point, says they’re just waiting for the shoe to drop with the quotas.
“And we know it’s going to drop hard again this year,” she told the Northern Pen. “I think what’s coming in April is not going to make me feel very good.”
Last year, with the cuts in area 6, Kelly didn’t get as many hours as usual at the fish plant in Anchor Point, but she did manage to get enough work to receive employment insurance.
But of the 14 weeks she worked last year, there were two or three weeks where she had just a single day of work.
Kelly feels the government is easing workers into another cut by revealing this information on the stocks now.
And she fears the absolute worst could be coming: that there may be no inshore shrimp fishery at all in area 6.
“You watch, mark my word, that probably April 1 we’re not going to be allowed on the fishing grounds in area 6,” she said.
Kelly blames the stock decline on offshore vessels fishing shrimp in area 6 during spawning season in April.
She supports a ban of the offshore in area 6 in the wintertime.
“Why are they allowed to fish in the winter?” she asked.