N.L. premier, fisheries minister vow to 'support' fish harvesters, plant workers in wake of quota cuts

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N.L. premier, fisheries minister vow to 'support' fish harvesters, plant workers in wake of quota cuts

N.L. premier, fisheries minister vow to 'support' fish harvesters, plant workers in wake of quota cuts

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball is promising to support people in "transition," following the recent cuts announced to the northern shrimp and snow crab quotas.

"We recognize and know that it's going to require an investment from the provincial government with displaced workers," Ball said Tuesday.

"We will be there, supporting plant workers in this province, I can assure you that. It's important to us."

Provincial Fisheries Minister Steve Crocker echoed that sentiment.

"Government is going to be there to support you in any way we can," he told CBC News.

"This decline in this fishery probably couldn't have come at a worse time. The challenges we face as a province have been compounded over the last couple of years, you know decrease in oil revenues, and now, to have this happen to what I consider to be the backbone industry in the province."

Federal fisheries has announced that the shrimp quota will see a 63 per cent cut, while the total allowable catch for snow crab will be slashed by 22 per cent this year.

Meeting with DFO

Ball said he is eager for a face-to-face meeting with Dominic LeBlanc, federal minister of fisheries and oceans, following a phone call between Ball, Crocker and LeBlanc Monday night.

"It'll be quick, it won't be long. We'll get this meeting done now as soon as he's ready. He understands the situation we're in," Ball said. 

Crocker said he has heard from harvesters and fish plant workers who feel they were not consulted properly and the numbers don't match up with what they've been seeing on the water.

"One thing I think DFO has to do ... is listen to harvesters," he said. "Some harvesters say yeah, they've seen declines. Other harvesters tell me what they've seen doesn't reflect some of what these cuts are."

Crocker said "there is definitely a shift in the ecosystem," but harvesters "need to be consulted with regards to cuts."

'I think we have a bright future'

Crocker said for now the numbers are what they are when it comes to shrimp and snow crab and he's looking for other possible rebounds.

"I think there is a case to be made for a modest increase this year in cod quotas," he said.

"We need to be slow and steady, but if we don't offer incremental quota increases, harvesters and processors aren't going to have the ability to invest in the fishery of the future."

He said he will push DFO for an annual cod assessment starting next year, instead of one every three years.

Overall, Crocker said it's a tough time, but he remains optimistic.

"We just need to get through this transition. I think we have a bright future."