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Labrador fleet wants separate quota for northern cod

Dwight Russell, a Mary’s Harbour fisherman, believes a separate quota for northern cod in NAFO Division 2J would help the fishery grow in Labrador.
Dwight Russell, a Mary’s Harbour fisherman, believes a separate quota for northern cod in NAFO Division 2J would help the fishery grow in Labrador. - Stephen Roberts

FFAW and FISH-NL do not support proposal

MARY'S HARBOUR, N.L. —

Commercial fishers in Labrador want a bigger share of the catch from the northern cod stewardship fishery.
They have proposed to the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) that 25 per cent of the total quota be allocated to their fishing zone, 2J. 
Fishers from the 2J fleets partnered with the Labrador Fishermen’s Union Shrimp Company to make the proposal.
In 2018, a 9,500-tonne limit was placed on the northern cod stewardship fishery for fishing zones 2J3KL. Those zones extend from Lodge Bay to around Makkovik. 
Of that 9,500 tonnes, less than three per cent was landed in area 2J.
Dwight Russell, a Mary’s Harbour fisherman, is chair of the 2J fishers. He told The Northern Pen the fleet is just looking for a fair share.
Russell says he doesn’t believe the 2J cod fishing fleet, historically, has been given much opportunity to grow. He says if they could get a higher share of the total Northern cod quota, it would allow the industry to grow in the region.
“They (the 3KL fleets) have more harvesters and that’s to be recognized, but I think what also has to be recognized is that people down here have never had the chance to build a fishery,” he told The Northern Pen. “So, we’re asking for a quota to help build a fishery and build communities and we’re putting infrastructure in place to make that happen.”
According to Russell, there have been two primary obstacles in developing the 2J northern cod fishery. Firstly, the infrastructure to process cod simply does not exist along the Labrador coast.
“There’s a limited supply because the plant here (Mary’s Harbour) just doesn’t have the capacity to do any amount of fish,” he said.
However, that might change soon. The Labrador Fishermen’s Union Shrimp Company is building a cod processing facility in Mary’s Harbour. Russell was hopeful it would be operational in 2020. When it’s completed, the 2J fleet will have a reliable buyer for their cod.
Russell thinks that could enable larger vessels to participate in the cod fishery. He says compared to 3KL, there is very little participation among 39-foot-and-over vessels in 2J.
The other problem for 2J harvesters has been weather patterns and the migration of cod.
“People in this area got a very short window of opportunity to go out to fish,” he said. “The fish is always later coming here and you get a lot of rough weather which is not good for small boats.”
Fishers in the 3KL zones, he says, are often able to fish cod when 2J fishers are not, thus having more opportunity to take a higher percentage of the cod allotted to 2J3KL.
“Potentially the quota can be taken before Labrador fishermen get on the water,” said Russell. “We want to protect against that.”
He says if they had a separate, guaranteed quota, the 2J harvesters wouldn't have to worry about what’s happening in 3KL. They could catch cod whenever it works best for them.
Russell says they’re not expecting 25 per cent this year; rather it's a long-term goal.
However, the proposal has some opposition.
Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL, released a statement late last month condemning the proposal.
Cleary said he does not feel any particular group should be entitled to a certain percentage of the total allowable catch of cod.
“Adjacency has to work for everyone, for all of Newfoundland and Labrador,” he told The Northern Pen in an interview. “Our membership does not believe 25 per cent of the northern cod quota should go to Labrador, absolutely not.”
Fish, Food and Allied Workers-Unifor (FFAW-Unifor) is also opposed to the proposal. 
In a written statement to The Northern Pen, FFAW-Unifor secretary treasurer David Decker said, “The NL-Groundfish Industry Development Council, of which FFAW is a part of, does not support sharing arrangements for any area."
He suggested there were other proposals which requested to restrict harvesters in 2J to three per cent of the quota. He called these proposals "equally unacceptable."
Decker believes sharing arrangements would create division and conflict amongst harvesters, when they need to work together to build the fishery.
DFO told The Northern Pen no decisions have yet been made on the northern cod quota for 2019.

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