The Canadian east coast shrimp fishery is in serious trouble, says David Decker, secretary-treasurer of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers in St. John’s Newfoundland, and it’s time to take serious action to save it.

Furthermore, he says that only a united Atlantic Canadian effort will solve the problem, and to that end he and Newfoundland fishermen have been meeting with their counterparts in New Brunswick and Quebec. By mid-October the first meeting had been held in Moncton, New Brunswick, and Decker declared himself “pleased with the progress so far.”

The group is now calling on Ottawa and provincial fisheries ministers to join the effort.

“Clearly our problems are the same and we felt it was important that we join forces in a campaign to get the federal government to act. We know there are things outside of our control, such as the exchange rate and the high Canadian dollar, but there are things our Canadian government can do and we expect and demand that they be done,” Decker said.

A major problem for area fishermen is the transshipment through Newfoundland ports of shrimp taken on the Flemish Cap by foreign vessels destined for European Union countries.

“We’re competing against our own shrimp in the marketplace. Shrimp processed here is slapped with a 20 percent European tariff, but Canadian shrimp landed here and processed in Europe escapes this tariff,” Decker said, noting that British consumers are big fans of North Atlantic shrimp.

What he and the fishermen want is a “concerted effort” of the federal and provincial governments in co-operation with industry to tackle the tariff problem in the European Union.

“This tariff regime is grossly unfair to our industry and it’s grossly unfair to European consumers,” Decker said. “There are 4,000 Canadian jobs that will go down the drain if that problem is not fixed. These rural jobs in the harvesting and processing sector are dependent on the shrimp industry in our province and are in jeopardy if actions are not taken to deal with the market and tariff issues as well as the high fuel costs facing this industry.”

He added, “Under E.U. tariff rules, a small portion of Canadian shrimp production has access to a reduced tariff quota, but the bulk of the production is subject to a whopping 20 percent tariff – far more than any of our competitors. But shrimp landed in this province by offshore boats – both domestic and foreign – for trans-shipping to other countries for processing gets more favorable tariff treatment and actually undercuts the shrimp that is processed in Newfoundland and Labrador plants.”

“We have a common problem,” Decker said. “How do we collectively go about solving it? Right now it’s like a one-way street – increasing costs and lower prices. If this keeps up, we won’t have a shrimp fishery.”