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DFO 'intellectually and morally bankrupt' in provincial redfish allocations, N.L. minister says

Immigration Minister Gerry Byrne said the province had a backlog of immigration applications at the end of 2022. (Darrell Roberts/CBC - image credit)
Immigration Minister Gerry Byrne said the province had a backlog of immigration applications at the end of 2022. (Darrell Roberts/CBC - image credit)
Immigration Minister Gerry Byrne said the province had a backlog of immigration applications at the end of 2022.
Immigration Minister Gerry Byrne said the province had a backlog of immigration applications at the end of 2022.

Gerry Bryne, the MHA for Corner Brook and a former fisheries minister, says the Department of Fisheries and Oceans should have allotted Newfoundland and Labrador more redfish this season. (Darrell Roberts/CBC)

Corner Brook MHA and former provincial fisheries minister Gerry Byrne says Newfoundland and Labrador deserves a higher allocation of redfish this season, and believes the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans is "intellectually and morally bankrupt" in its decision-making.

Federal Fisheries Minister Diane Lebouthillier announced the redfish allocation for the Atlantic provinces in the Gulf of St. Lawrence last Friday. Newfoundland and Labrador saw a slight increase to a 19 per cent share, up two per cent from historical allocations.

Nova Scotia received 33 per cent of the quota, Québec 32 per cent, New Brunswick 11 per cent and P.E.I. five per cent. Indigenous fishers and shrimp harvesters will also get an allocation of redfish following a reduction in shrimp quotas.

Speaking with CBC Radio's The Broadcast on Thursday, Byrne said he was "gobsmacked" and "enraged" by the announcement, saying much of the conservation work done in western Newfoundland appears to have not been accounted for.

"The Gulf of St. Lawrence's return to [the] redfish fishery story should be a story of D.F.O. putting on display the full strength, the full prowess, the full intellectual capacity of everything that they have learned and we have learned on managing groundfish stocks for their sustainable future," Byrne told CBC.

"Based on the decision that I heard just a few days ago, DFO are intellectually and morally bankrupt. They refused to accept that … you should not advance or increase capacity when capacity already exists. That's where I am livid, vicious, crazy angry with DFO. Because they have shown absolutely no intellectual or moral capacity within this regard."

Byrne believes Lebouthillier is threatening the redfish stock in the gulf by giving too much to fishers in other provinces not near it. He's outraged that allocations would go to offshore fleets and communities who don't have boats or workers.

Redfish was a shuttered fishery in 1995, but the biomass in the gulf has rebounded to an estimated two million tonnes according to DFO

A healthy redfish stock could help sustain rural communities for the next 30 years
A healthy redfish stock could help sustain rural communities for the next 30 years

The redfish fishery was shut down in 1995, but has rebounded in recent years and is now being fished commercially again. (Submitted by Marine Institute)

"We have 90 boats in the gulf, the majority of which are from the west coast of Newfoundland, that could persecute this fishery. We have plant capacity that's already established in western Newfoundland," he said.

"It's a high volume, low value fishery," he added. "Difficult to market, difficult to process, difficult to catch. If you do not have existing expertise, if you do not have existing capacity in that regard, you're going to be in trouble."

If he were minister, Byrne said, he would have allocated numbers more closely based on historical figures. He plans to bring that up in a meeting with DFO, current Fisheries Minister Elvis Loveless and provincial stakeholders on Friday.

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