CARTWRIGHT, NL – Two fishermen in Cartwright are making accusations of backdoor dealings and foul play around a Labrador committee of harvesters.
Curtis Heard says he’s spent the past two years trying to get answers from a shrimp allocation committee that he claims is breaking the rules to satisfy its own ends.
“This committee operates with no oversight,” said Heard. “They’re making criteria to treat themselves, and if they don’t meet that criteria they’ll still walk through it.”
In 2003, as a way to offset the impact of declines in crab and cod stocks, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) established an allocation of northern shrimp for crab and cod harvesters from Cartwright to L’Anse au Clair.
The shrimp is caught by offshore fishers and, through the allocation, royalty payments are given out to these harvesters.
In an emailed response, the department said its role is to facilitate discussion and provide information on their policies to those involved with the allocation. But the allocation itself is managed solely by committees made up of inshore harvesters from the area.
Two committees were formed for this northern shrimp allocation – one managing allocations in Cartwright to Lodge Bay, and the other for allocations in Red Bay to L’Anse au Clair.
Heard’s main complaint is that many of the harvesters involved with the < 40’ Inshore Affected Cod/Crab Fishers Cartwright to Lodge Bay Committee are not meeting the allocation’s criteria, but are still receiving the payments.
“They’ve changed the criteria so much from 2003 up to 2011 that some committee members have told me they don’t even follow it anymore,” Heard said. “There’s some shady material going on there at the very least.”
Some of the criteria requirements, as of the 2011 changes, are that harvesters have core enterprise licenses and own boats that are under 40 feet long. Heard says some harvesters that receive the allocation are using boats that are over 40 feet, but are improperly registered as 39’11 or under.
In an emailed response, DFO stated all vessels must be registered with a survey/measurement form. The form itself is completed by the harvester with an independent marine surveyor.
DFO said any complaints brought to the department about vessel length eligibility are investigated.
Members of the < 40’ Inshore Affected Cod/Crab Fishers Cartwright to Lodge Bay Committee, including president Neil Chubbs, were contacted for comment but did not respond to the Northern Pen by deadline.
Barry Dyson says despite owning a core enterprise and groundfish license and owning a 22 ft. boat, he has been told he does not qualify for the allocation.
Dyson says he was told the committee has not been taking any new membership since 2011, but he claims the committee has not steadily followed this guideline, as other harvesters have been added to the allocation since 2014.
As well, Dyson and Heard say they have heard from reliable sources that the Labrador Fishermen’s Union Shrimp Co. is planning to buy out the allocation holders for several hundred thousand dollars.
Norma Flynn, media contact for the company, says these rumours are unfounded and general manager Gilbert Linstead has heard nothing about them.
Rumours and allegations surrounding these shrimp allocations are plentiful. Upon contacting Heard, Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland Labrador (FISH-NL) president Ryan Cleary sent a letter to Dominic LeBlanc, federal minister of Fisheries, Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard, calling for a further investigation.
“There’s a lot of questions here that there needs to be answers to,” said Heard.