Fish quotas raise stink

The Atlantic fisheries policy review panel visiting Iqaluit later this month can expect to field tough questions about why Nunavut is prevented from commercially harvesting more than a fraction of the stocks offshore


Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT — Nunavut fishers are still waiting for federal fisheries minister David Anderson to say what their shrimp quota will be this year, even as fishers in Newfoundland and the Maritimes prepare their boats for the Labrador coast.

“Anything beyond the 60th parallel is not important to the minister,” Ben Kovic, chairman of the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board (NWMB) charged this week, describing the situation as yet more evidence of Ottawa’s indifference toward the challenges facing northern fisheries.

“It’s like we’re second class citizens.”

Federal officials plan to travel to Iqaluit later this month as part of a comprehensive review of Canada’s Atlantic fisheries policy. They should brace themselves for an earful.

Nunavut’s Minister of Sustainable Development Peter Kilabuk, who is on the list of invitees, has vowed to “vigorously pursue more equitable allocation of the resources that lie off our shores.”

Principles under scrutiny

Most frustrating for the small commerical Inuit fisheries, Kovic said, is the way DFO has ignored its own principle of adjacency to deny Nunavut quotas large enough to begin developing a viable industry.

Nunavut’s 27 percent share of Canada’s turbot quota, for instance, gives it only1,500 tonnes per year — hardly enough to warrant investing in vessels, Kovic said.

In particular, Nunavut will press the federal government to acknowledge that the new northern territory and its mostly Inuit population should be entitled to the greatest share of commercial fish stocks in waters adjacent to the Nunavut land-claim settlement area.

“That’s the number one problem we have,” Kovic said. “We need to solve this adjaceny question. Who gets what, under adjaceny? Who gets the most on his doorstep?

“Once we solve that, then allocation shouldn’t really be a problem.”

The practice of allocating the greatest portion of the total allowable catch of commerical fish on the basis of adjacency is common in other Canadian jurisdictions, Kovic noted. “We want to know why we are different from them.”

Kovic cited the length of time it has taken DFO Minister David Anderson to announce this year’s shrimp allocations in Davis Strait and Hudson Bay, designated as Area 2.

Nunavut requested 80 per cent of this year’s total allowable catch in Area 2, which is roughly 3100 tonnes. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has still to give an answer.

“When you step down to the sea here in front of the dock, that’s Area 2, so that’s our adjaceny,” Kovic said. “And the minister doesn’t want to recognize that.”

More consistency sought

The policy review, the first of its kind in 20 years, is being conducted by DFO in response to increasing demands for a more consistent approach to managing the Atlantic fisheries.

Catrina Tapley, director of the policy review, said that the Department’s goal is to rethink the way fish stocks are allocated and to clarify those principles that govern decisions about allocation.

Tapley said individual quotas would not be reviewed at this time.

“This is a question of being consistent with rules across the board on the broad-levels stuff,” Tapley said. “What are our principles? How do we move forward having a consistent set of principles across the Atlantic?”

Other principles, such as historical dependence and the need for conservation, are also going to be reviewed, she said.

The policy review could, in the long term, change the way quotas are allotted, Tapley said.

“All these principles will have an effect on what it is the North is trying to do and the case the North is trying to build for itself.”

The Nunavut meeting is being held on June 22, starting at 1:30 p.m., in the boardroom of the Parnaivik Building in Iqaluit. It is open to the public.

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