New turbot quota is all Nunavut’s

Northern Davis Strait turbot catch rises 60 per cent



Nunavut fishers are anxiously waiting to find out who will get to fish the extra 2,500 tonnes of turbot that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans gave to Nunavut last week.

Loyola Hearne, the fisheries minister, announced last Friday that Nunavut will get 100 per cent of the turbot quota increase in division 0A — Canada’s most northerly offshore fishing zone, stretching from just south of Qikiqtarjuaq to Ellesmere Island.

That brings Nunavut’s total annual allowable catch in that zone to 6,500 tonnes from 4,000 tonnes, a sign that Nunavut interests are getting a bigger share of turbot in adjacent waters, moving closer what provinces have historically enjoyed.

“We’ve been fighting for a long time to make sure that we get 100 per cent of any allocations in the territory,” said Olayuk Akesuk, the former environment minister, who retained responsibility for fisheries and sealing when he moved to the economic development and transportation portfolio last month.

“I think we’ve done a great job.”

Ben Kovic, the chair of the Baffin Fisheries Coalition, said he’s pleased with the new allocation, which signals the new federal Conservative government has a favourable view of Nunavut’s fishery.

“We’re still low percentage-wise in the whole turbot fishing area 0,” Kovic said, referring to both turbot zones east of Baffin Island. Nunavut still controls only 68 per cent of the combined turbot quota in divisions 0A and 0B.

Market prices for turbot currently hover around $5,500 per tonne, Kovic said. That means the new quota increase has a value of roughly $13 million.

“Nunavut communities that are involved in the fishery should get a good chunk of that in royalty payments and employment,” Kovic said.

The BFC — a coalition of Baffin fishers, minus the breakway Nattivak HTO in Qikiqtarjuaq — is just one group waiting to hear who will be allowed to fish the new quota.

The Nunavut Wildlife Management Board will soon issue a call for applications to fish the quota, with a deadline of April 21, said Joe Tiqullaraq, the board’s chair.

The board will review the applications on April 24 or 25, and make recommendations on who should fish the quota to DFO, which then formalizes the decision though an announcement from the minister.

This arrangement gives the NWMB effective decision-making power over who gets to fish in the waters off Nunavut.

But the NWMB’s recommendations must be kept secret until the DFO minister “announces” the decision.

The North Atlantic Fisheries Organization last year recommended a quota increase for the Davis Strait, based on research conducted by DFO, and funded by the Government of Nunavut, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, the Baffin Fisheries Coalition and DFO.

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