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Sharing the Redfish Pie

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) recently announced the reopening of the long-dormant redfish fishery after some 30 years.

Until the season begins in earnest, DFO has yet another “pie” cooling on its metaphorical windowsill. And, as always, representatives of different groups are lining up to argue that their slice isn’t quite as big as they would like it to be.

Everyone wants a bigger slice of the pie than they’ve gotten, whether it’s cod, crab, mackerel, turbot or any other creature that inhabits the waters off our shores. The reality in the Canadian fisheries, however, is that the person (or people) cutting the pie don’t have to worry about ensuring everyone has an equally sized quota.

Take, for example, the offshore fleet. Historically, the offshore has taken up around two-thirds of the redfish pie. This share has been bumped down to 58.69 per cent in order to cut some meagre 10 per cent slices for Gulf shrimpers and Indigenous harvesters. Understandably, these fleets look at the offshore sector taking over half the redfish pie and think of them as gluttonous. They may feel as though DFO is being a bit unfair in their serving sizes.

But why can’t the industry as a whole just be happy there is a pie at all?

After 30 years of reduced stock sizes, redfish will be making its return to the commercial fishery thanks to management and environmental factors seeing a surge in their population. No matter how much of this revived fishery one gets to take advantage of, it should be seen as a rare victory in the Canadian fishery that we have the option to fish at all.

On top of that, the jury is still out on just how much redfish pie will be served in 2024. While DFO Minister Diane Lebouthillier set a “floor” for redfish quota at 25,000 tonnes, this number can, and likely will, go up before the season officially starts. While the 10 per cent allocation Gulf shrimpers have been allotted may only equal 2,500 tonnes should the quota be held, a doubling of the total quota would, in turn, double the share seen by these smaller parties.

So, as we wait for the redfish pie to cool, the slices to be divided and the industry to dig in, let’s take a moment to be thankful that we have the opportunity to bicker over the size of our slices at all.