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November 25, 2003
For immediate release

Minister Expresses Frustration at Federal Decision on Fleet Quotas for Bluefin Tuna Fishery

Agriculture, Fisheries, Aquaculture & Forestry

Kevin MacAdam, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Aquaculture and Forestry says a new fleet quota system for the Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery is unfair and inequitable to Prince Edward Island fishers.

Speaking in the Provincial Legislature, Minister MacAdam expressed his frustration at Monday’s announcement by Federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Robert Thibault of fleet quotas for the seven Atlantic bluefin tuna fleets. It will see the Prince Edward Island fleet receive 30.52 per cent of the quota. PEI has landed an average of 190 metric tonnes over the last five years. In 2003, with a Canadian quota of 545 metric tonnes, PEI fishers landed 180 metric tonnes. Under this new system PEI’s landings would be reduced to 172 metric tonnes for 2004 based on an anticipated higher Canadian quota of 565 metric tonnes.

“Once again, the federal minister has disregarded the overarching principles of fairness and equity in providing access to fishery resources,” said Minister MacAdam. “While Minister Thibault has said the fleet quotas were based on the most favourable option for each fleet, the fact is that none of the options presented by DFO were favourable for Prince Edward Island.”

In September, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans circulated a discussion paper on developing fleet quotas for the Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery. It contained four options for sharing the quota among the fleet sectors, all based on catch history only. Minister MacAdam said “Prince Edward Island industry members and my Department supported an alternative option for a fleet quota system based on a 50/50 criteria - 50 per cent on the number of licences held and 50 per cent on the fleet’s catch history.” Under this option, the PEI fleet would have received more than 225 metric tonnes.

“Such a system would recognize the fact that Prince Edward Island has, by far, the largest number of licence holders. The fleet quota system that Minister Thibault announced gives no consideration to that fact,” said Minister MacAdam.

“If we look at the breakdown, Prince Edward Island has 355 licence holders and 30.52 per cent of the quota, while the Province of Nova Scotia has 184 licences and 44.98 per cent of the quota. That means that a tuna fisher in Prince Edward Island will average .48 metric tonnes, that is less than half a metric tonne, compared with 3.62 metric tonnes for each of the thirty two licensed fishers in the Southwest Nova Scotia fleet, or more than seven times that of the PEI license holder. I don’t believe that can be called ‘fair and equitable’ sharing of the resource,” the Provincial Minister added.

Minister MacAdam said the former provincial minister wrote to Minister Thibault in September to express Prince Edward Island’s support of the 50/50 formula for fleet quota allocation. Minister MacAdam reiterated that position in another letter in late October, and PEI industry representatives made similar petitions to the federal minister. As well, recognizing the importance of the issue, Minister MacAdam asked that any decision on Atlantic bluefin tuna quotas not be made until all ministers had an opportunity to have a full discussion on the matter at the next meeting of the Atlantic Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers, that request was ignored.

“Prince Edward Island fishers were pioneers in the bluefin tuna fishery and continue to be the dominant sector today in terms of participants and landings. The fleet quota system announced this week does not reflect these facts and I will be making that point to my federal counterpart at the earliest opportunity,” said Minister MacAdam. “I assure Island fishers that the Province will continue to strongly pressure the federal government for a fair and equitable formula for sharing of the bluefin tuna resource.”

Media Contact: Kevin MacAdam
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