Terms of Reference

Public Review of Allocation Decisions that have taken place since 2007 in the Gulf Atlantic Halibut Fishery

A. Purpose

The purpose of this initiative is to have a full open and transparent review of decisions that have been taken place in the allocation of 4RST Atlantic halibut quotas since 2007. All fleets that are part of Gulf Groundfish Advisory Committee (GGAC), including respective Provincial Governments, will be invited to provide their positions on the allocation decisions. The information will be compiled to prepare advice and options for the Minister on sharing prior to the start of this year’s fishery (May 15, 2016).

B. Background

The 4RST Atlantic halibut fishery is managed on a two year cycle with an annual Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and operates on a May 15 - May 14 season.

In 1988, the Department introduced fleet sharing in the 4RST Atlantic halibut fishery. The directed fishery for inshore fixed gear fleets was fished in a competitive manner until 2007. Shares amongst the eight inshore fixed gear fleets (i.e. geographic fleet shares) were established in 2007 based on historical landings (between 1986 and 2004). Since then, Gulf Region halibut fleet representatives have expressed their disagreement with the sharing arrangement on many occasions.

Beginning in 2008, 85% of the mobile gear fleet quotas have been transferred annually by DFO to the inshore fixed gear fleet. Mobile gear fleets are not permitted to direct for their allocations and current by-catch needs are well below mobile gear allocation levels.

In 2011, Science advised that the TAC could be increased to 720t from the 2010 level of 600t. The initial decision of 2011 provided for a TAC increase of 80t and it was divided equally among the 8 inshore fixed gear fleets. The other fixed gear fleets and the mobile gear fleets did not receive any portion of the TAC increase.

In May 2011, inshore fixed-gear fish harvesters from Newfoundland protested the decision to increase quota by only 80t (to 680t) instead of following the Science (720t), and the decision to share the increase on an equal basis, instead of using 2007 fleet shares. Following this protest, a second TAC increase of an additional 40t (bringing TAC to 720t) was provided to inshore fixed gear fleets, and was shared based on 2007 fleet shares.

In the fall of 2011 Ernst & Young was contracted by the Department to review the 2007 fleet sharing decision to determine; if the approach was in line with Departmental policy, and if the methodology used in the establishment of fleet shares was consistent with that used to establish fleet shares in other fisheries. The report found that the methodologies and application of policy and precedence, was in line with decisions made in other fisheries where shares had been introduced.

Quota distribution for 2012 was based on the final percentage shares the fixed gear fleets received in 2011, excluding mobile gear transfers.

In 2013, a 2-year decision (2013 and 2014) with a TAC of 864t was announced with the distribution of the inshore fixed gear shares based on the same formula as that used in 2012. This sharing was announced as stable for the inshore fleet. These new shares were used for both the initial allocation to the inshore fixed gear fleets, as well as the quota transfer from mobile to fixed gear fleets.

In 2015, a 2-year TAC decision (2015 and 2016) set the TAC at 1036.8t annually representing 172.8t increase from the previous TAC level. The increase was provided exclusively to the inshore fixed gear fleet and allocated equally to the eight inshore fleets. The mobile gear fleet transfer was based on the modified stable sharing from 2013. Other fleets, including the fixed gear 65-100’ fleet that also has a directed fishery, did not receive their portion of the TAC increase under this approach.

During the election campaign, the Liberal Party committed to reviewing the sharing arrangement for Gulf halibut through correspondence with the Fish Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) union, which represents inshore Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) harvesters, and with the Government of NL.

C. Objectives

D. Scope

  1. Stakeholders will focus their perspectives on identifying the concerns respecting decisions that have affected stability of shares in the Gulf Atlantic halibut fishery.

E. Methodology / Approach

  1. The Department will solicit written submissions from interested parties, and post them on a DFO website to ensure an open and transparent process. The following stakeholders / parties will be invited to participate:
    • The Inshore Groundfish Fleet
    • The mid-shore groundfish Fleet
    • The Offshore Groundfish Fleet
    • Relevant provincial governments and agencies
    • Relevant Aboriginal and Inuit organizations
  2. Stakeholders will be advised that results of the review may result in adjustments to allocations as early as this upcoming season (2016/17).
  3. A face to face meeting will be chaired by DFO National Head Quarters to present the positions of various stakeholders and allow for open and transparent discussion of views. The meeting will be held in Montreal, Quebec.
  4. The Department will review various positions of stakeholders and prepare options for the Minister’s consideration prior to the 2016 fishery (May 15, 2016).

F. Timeframe

G. Considerations

  1. There is currently a two year management plan in place for Gulf Atlantic halibut which would suggest no change in the management approach (allocations) for the 2016 season.
  2. Based on results of the review, options to the Minister may include adjustments to the multi-year management plan announced in 2015.