Nunavut fish quota increase helps correct historic wrongs: NTI
Canada “must provide Nunavut with a major investment to address our long-standing quest for equitable allocation of our resources”
Ottawa’s recent increase in turbot quotas off the eastern shore of Baffin Island, most of which was given to Nunavut, is a step towards correcting a historical wrong, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. President Aluki Kotierk said in a statement Feb. 1.
“Fishers in other Canadian jurisdictions have access to the majority of quota for species in their adjacent waters. NTI has asked for the same consideration to be given to Nunavut Inuit, in accordance with the economic and harvesting rights embedded in the Nunavut [Land Claims] Agreement,” Kotierk said.
Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominc Leblanc, who replaced Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo after Tootoo’s departure from cabinet and the Liberal caucus last year, sent out a memo announcing an increase in the quotas in late January in both of the ocean zones to the east of Baffin Island, said Jerry Ward, the director of fisheries at Qikiqtaaluk Fisheries Corp., a subsidiary of Qikiqtaaluk Corp.
In June 2016 the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization’s scientific council determined that fish stocks justified a combined increase in zones 0A and 0B of 1,150 tonnes, split evenly into 575 tonnes per zone.
In zone 0A Nunavut got 100 per cent of that 575 tonnes, and in 0B Nunavut got 90 per cent of 575 tonnes, or 517.5 tonnes, with Nunavik getting the other 10 per cent.
Nunavut now enjoys a larger quota allotted to Zone 0A, which includes the northern portion of Baffin Island. Nunavut has always received 100 per cent of the quota in Zone 0A, where the turbot fishery opened in 2001.
And, with the increase in Zone 0B, where Nunavut has historically struggled to increase its share of the quota, Nunavut now has 74 per cent of the total allowable catch in is adjacent waters, Ward said.
That’s up from the 27.3-per cent share that Nunavut had until 2008 and 2014, when the territory’s share increased.
“We’re very encouraged because the DFO are following the adjacency principle, and have for the last three or four increases. Overall, since 2001, we’ve increased our quota from 27 to 74 per cent,” Ward said.
“The federal government is finally recognizing the issue of adjacency as it relates to Nunavut. We’ve seen that in the last number of quota increases. Hopefully, over a period of time, we’ll get to enjoy fishing in our adjacent waters like our neighbours in the south.”
Ward said the ultimate goal is to have Nunavut achieve a quota of 80 to 100 per cent, which is the norm in other jurisdictions.
The increase in share of quota to Nunavut’s fisheries industry, valued annually around $140 million, represents an $8-million hike in revenues for the Nunavut fishery, the NTI said in its statement.
“Although the announcement is a step in the right direction by providing Nunavut’s fisheries with new resources, the Government of Canada must provide Nunavut with a major investment to address our long-standing quest for equitable allocation of our resources. Nunavut must have access to the existing resources previously granted to non-Nunavut fishers,” NTI said.
Fishing quotas in waters adjacent to Nunavut has been a controversial topic since before the territory’s creation.
For example, NTI won a court battle against Ottawa in 1997 which gave Nunavut Inuit access to turbot fishing in the Davis Strait.
For years after the creation of Nunavut, the territory’s turbot quota stood at about 27 per cent with Atlantic fishing companies scooping up the majority of the remaining quota due to the fact that Nunavut had too few fishing vessels.
In 2008, the Baffin Fisheries Coalition took the fight to a new level, torching an old rowboat in Iqaluit to emphasize their protest over southern fishing companies benefiting from quotas in Nunavut waters.
But in 2016, Ottawa announced a 1,000-tonne increase in shrimp quota for Nunavut waters, all of which went to the territory’s fishing industry.
That represented an increase of 15 per cent, or $5 million, in Nunavut’s total shrimp quota in its own waters.
And it demonstrated a willingness by Ottawa to increase Nunavut’s share of the quota in the two zones off Baffin Island, a spokesperson for the fishing industry said at the time.
A policy scrapped by Ottawa in 2016 said only one-third of the quotas in Nunavut waters should go to Nunavut fishers, while the other two-thirds should go to southern companies.