Canadian provinces push for access to developing Unit 1 redfish fishery

A catch of Acadian redfish.

Multiple provinces in Canada are pushing to get access to a developing fishery for redfish – which consists of two species of redfish that live in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Laurentian Channel areas – with groups from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador all pushing for access to quota. 

The redfish fishery, made up of deepwater redfish (Sebastes mentella) and Acadian redfish (Sebastes fasciatus) has been under a moratorium since 1995 after the stock collapsed. In recent years, populations of both species have recovered to a great extent, enough so that Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans has already been running an experimental fishery in what it deems the Unit 1 area.

New Brunswick Agriculture, Aquaculture, and Fisheries Minister Margaret Johnson said the return presents a “real opportunity” for the province, which has been preparing for the reopening of the fishery.

The Fish Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW), which represents thousands of fishermen in Newfoundland and Labrador, has also been advocating to get a significant portion of the future redfish quota. The union has engaged in a member campaign calling for support in getting the inshore fleet access to the quota.

“A commitment from federal government for a significant portion of redfish to be landed and processed in this province will support 1,000+ harvester and plant worker jobs, creating tens of millions of dollars in annual economic development, but the full value of this new fishery cannot be fully quantified in numbers,” FFAW said. “A community-based fishery will revitalize revenue streams, improve infrastructure, invite new investments, create and sustain employment, bring stability to the region with the decline of northern shrimp, and establish a renewed sense of place and cultural connection for communities.”

That push, however, has run into heavy opposition from Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Kent Smith has asked the Canadian government to ensure a significant portion of the quota is given to the province, as it has spent millions of dollars on preparing to be allowed to fish the species again.

Smith sent a letter to Canada Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Diane Lebouthillier urging her to keep allocations mostly limited to the province. 

"To change these established allocations would bring significant economic hardships to these Nova Scotia-based fleets and the hundreds of jobs in coastal Nova Scotia communities that they support,” Smith wrote, adding that Nova Scotia getting the portion of the quota it has prepared for would be essential to ensuring future investment in the seafood industry. 

"Furthermore, the apparent trend of altering longstanding quota agreements threatens to destabilize investment in seafood infrastructure, as well as market and product development," he said. 

Smith told SeafoodSource …

Photo courtesy of FishWatch, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons  

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