John Drolet
Harbour Master
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Louisbourg, NS
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Friday, February 26, 2010

Canadian ports closed to vessels from Greenland and Faroe Islands who are ignoring catch quotas


Canada followed through Monday on a threat to close East Coast ports to fishing vessels from Greenland and the Faroe Islands after the Danish territories failed to agree to a 334-tonne shrimp quota in international waters off the Newfoundland coast.

The Danish-flagged fleets, objecting to the strict catch limits imposed last fall by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization for the "3L" zone just beyond Canadian waters, had unilaterally set a 3,100-tonne Danish quota for northern shrimp.

Last month, Fisheries Minister Gail Shea set a Feb. 15 deadline for the Danish territories to accept the NAFO quota and warned Canada would otherwise bar Greenlandic and Faroese boats from this country's ports, forcing them to return home to process their shrimp catches.

"We have acted in good faith for several years to try to resolve this issue, to no avail," Shea said in a statement Sunday announcing the port closure. "It has become clear to Canada that attempts to come to a multilateral agreement regarding the 3L shrimp quota for Denmark (in respect of the Faroe Islands and Greenland) are at an impasse."

While inviting Danish fisheries officials to "come back to the NAFO table" to resolve the dispute, Shea added: "Our government will continue to do whatever is necessary, under the law, to protect Canadian fishermen and the sustainability of the industry."

Newfoundland MP Gerry Byrne, the Liberal fisheries critic, has accused the Conservative government of mishandling the Danish dispute and slammed as "useless" the dispute-settling mechanisms available under the NAFO convention.
He issued a statement suggesting Shea's decision to close Canadian ports to the Danishflagged fleets is "more for show than for substance" and that the Greenlandic and Faroese shrimp boats may have "already caught the bulk of their unilaterally set quota" since the season began Jan. 1.
"How much remaining Danish fishing activity are we actually closing Canadian ports to?" he said.
Shea has called the Danish flouting of the NAFO quota on northern shrimp a "dangerous precedent that could impact conservation of the species."
And even though Denmark's shrimp haul amounts to just one per cent of the total quota in the 3L area -- of which Canada controls about 80 per cent -- the dispute raises the spectre of future struggles between the two countries at a time when warming Arctic waters and retreating sea ice are expected to dramatically expand fishing activity in the coming decades between Nunavut and Greenland.
Canadian ports had been closed to ships from Greenland and the Faroe Islands between December 2004 and March 2008, when signs of an emerging compromise on the shrimp dispute prompted Canada to allow Danish-flagged fleets to again off-load their catches in this country.
But the hoped-for resolution didn't come to pass, federal Fisheries spokesman Alain Belle-Isle told Canwest News Service last month, prompting Canada to threaten the new closure.

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