© ERIC MCCARTHY/TC MEDIA
FILE PHOTO: Tuna at Northport harbour.
Gail Shea says if Newfoundland and Labrador wants to catch more, it must enter a review process
If fishermen in Newfoundland and Labrador want to catch more tuna they're going to have to make their case to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).
That was the message from federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea on Wednesday following comments from Newfoundland and Labrador MP Gerry Byrne earlier this week that his province should be able to catch as much bluefin tuna as P.E.I. fishermen.
Byrne told CBC that his province's tuna quota should climb from 13 per cent to a quarter of the catch following a decision this spring by Shea, which involved dividing an increase in the Gulf of St. Lawrence halibut quota equally between the Atlantic provinces.
That decision increased Newfoundland and Labrador's quota by nine per cent and P.E.I.'s by 87 per cent.
"DFO's priority is to ensure fisheries remain sustainable while maximizing economic opportunities for fishermen,'' Shea said Wednesday, adding that she is very encouraged to see the halibut in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and bluefin tuna stocks are resurging.
"In fact, Newfoundland fishermen benefited from increases of over 21t of Gulf halibut and over 12t of bluefin tuna in the 2015 fishing season.
At the start of the current fishing season, Shea announced that a review of historical bluefin tuna shares will take place before the 2016 season.
Several fishermen and associations feel the shares put in place in 2004 unfairly penalized fishermen that participate in other core fisheries and that the shares don't maximize the economic opportunities that the fishery has to offer.
The review will take into account the evolution of the fishery over the last decade, the need for rationalization, increased science and the need to maximize economic opportunities for fishermen.
Shea said that review will include any input fishermen from Newfoundland and Labrador wish to make.
"I invite Newfoundland fishermen to make their presentation to DFO through this process,'' she said.
The Guardian contacted the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association for comment but the call was not immediately returned.