In response to months of anticipation and lobbying efforts in Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia, the federal government has unveiled its plan for allocating access in the reopening of the Gulf of St. Lawrence redfish fishery later this year, ending a nearly 30-year hiatus.
Fisheries Minister Diane Lebouthillier disclosed the details on Friday at a news conference in Gaspé, Que. Under the new allocation framework from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), Indigenous fishers and shrimp harvesters from Quebec and Atlantic Canada, anticipating a transition due to reduced shrimp quotas, will each receive 10% of the allocation. Minister Lebouthillier emphasized that this decision not only offers a modest income to shrimp harvesters transitioning to redfish but also contributes to advancing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
Nova Scotia will maintain its position as the primary beneficiary of the fishery, retaining the largest share, according to Minister Lebouthillier. Nova Scotia's Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister, Kent Smith, who had earlier expressed concerns about potential job losses if the province's share decreased, is awaiting further details to ascertain the actual allocation.
Decades ago, before the fishery closure in 1995, Nova Scotia held 74% of the redfish quota. The DFO announced on Friday that this share would be reduced to 58% in 2024. Jan Voutier, the manager of Ka'Le Bay Fisheries in Cape Breton, emphasized the need for a thorough analysis of the changes, stating that initial impressions suggest the impact might not be as severe as feared.
While the commercial redfish fishery experienced a closure in 1995, there has been a significant turnaround since then, with the DFO estimating the total size of the fishery in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to be just over two million tonnes. The total allowable catch for the revamped fishery is set at 25,000 tonnes, with an official reopening scheduled for 2024 in two phases. The first phase aims to give fish harvesters time to prepare, develop markets, and strengthen the sector's capacity, while the second phase will focus on expansion and long-term development.
Environmental group Oceans North expressed support for DFO's "low and slow" approach to reopening, highlighting the opportunity to benefit both the ecosystem and coastal communities. Additional details related to shrimp fishermen in Quebec were provided by DFO, stating that harvesters in specific regions will share 3,600 tonnes in 2024. More information on the 2024 allocation for the fishery can be found here.
Source: Andrew Sampson (Jan 26, 2024). CBC News. Ottawa revamps redfish allocation in Gulf of St. Lawrence, but N.S. keeps largest share. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/redfish-allocation-atlantic-canada-1.7095954
Photo: The federal government has announced how it will allocate fishing access to the redfish population in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. (Submitted by Marine Institute)