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FISH-NL raises concerns over decision to let banned trawlers land in Canada again

FISH-NL president Ryan Cleary
FISH-NL president Ryan Cleary - SaltWire Network

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) is wondering why trawlers from countries banned from Canadian ports for overfishing northern shrimp are once again allowed to land in the country.

Trawlers from the Faroe Islands and Greenland, which sail under the Danish flag, had been banned from Canadian ports since 2010 for overfishing its northern shrimp quota in fishing zone 3L outside Canada’s 200-mile limit, a FISH-NL news release issued today, Jan. 8 noted.

The organization is calling on Ottawa to explain the decision, which was made nearly a year ago.

“Why exactly was the ban lifted, and why didn’t the federal government make the news public when the decision was made?” FISH-NL president Ryan Cleary asked.

The FISH-NL release indicated a DFO official acknowledged today the port closure was lifted last February, quoting the individual as saying the information was “communicated to stakeholders through our NAFO advisory group.”

The release also quoted the official as stating, “DFG (Denmark, Faroe Islands, and Greenland) has not expressed an objection to the NAFO quota scheme in either of the last 2 years and there has been no fishing activity for shrimp in the NAFO regulatory area.”

Cleary indicated Canada originally closed its ports to fishing vessels from the Faroe Islands and Greenland in December 2004, reopening them in March 2008, supposedly as a sign of good faith ahead of talks between NAFO countries aimed at breaking the impasse on 3L shrimp quotas.

The FISH-NL release suggested one of NAFO’s major weaknesses is its inability to enforce the quotas it sets for migratory stocks that swim in and out of Canadian waters. NAFO member countries that don’t agree with quotas set by the organization can use the “objection procedure” to disregard them and unilaterally set their own.

Last year, Canada cut the inshore shrimp quota off the province’s northeast coast by 63 per cent.

"Once again, Ottawa is inclined to side with a toothless and useless NAFO rather than address the significant problems in our fishery,” said Cleary.

“In the interest of good faith of its Canadian constituents, and in particular, the NL fishery, the federal government needs to explain this questionable and secret decision which further comprises our fishing industry. Who, in Ottawa, is defending NL’s fishing interests?”

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