Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut November 09, 2012 - 2:10 pm

Community-based Nunavut fishing group wants more turbot quota

Group says competitors pay big fees to “foreigners”

SAMANTHA DAWSON
Members of the Arctic Fishery Alliance stand with chairman Lootie Toomasie (far left)  in front of their 100-foot factory freezer fixed gear vessel, the Suvak. (HANDOUT PHOTO)
Members of the Arctic Fishery Alliance stand with chairman Lootie Toomasie (far left) in front of their 100-foot factory freezer fixed gear vessel, the Suvak. (HANDOUT PHOTO)
The Suvak caught more than 850 metric tonnes of turbot in Nunavut waters and generated sales of more than $5 million in 2011, during its six trips fishing turbot.  (HANDOUT PHOTO)
The Suvak caught more than 850 metric tonnes of turbot in Nunavut waters and generated sales of more than $5 million in 2011, during its six trips fishing turbot. (HANDOUT PHOTO)

Lootie Toomasie, chairman of the Arctic Fishery Alliance, says the fishing group had a successful “financial performance” in 2011.

But the alliance, made up of the Hunter’s and Trapper’s organizations of Grise Fiord, Resolute Bay, Qikiqtarjuaq and Arctic Bay, wants to do even better — that is, if they can nab a larger share of the turbot quota.

This past July the alliance submitted an application to the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, which reviews allocations of Nunavut fisheries quotas every five years.

The alliance wanted a 50 per cent increase in its turbot quota to support the purchase of a second vessel to go along with the 100-foot factory freezer fixed-gear vessel, the Suvak.

The preliminary quota awarded to the alliance by the Fisheries Advisory Committee was 1,400 metric tonnes of turbot.

“[But] we are not satisfied with that because it’s the same quota we had before,” Toomasie said.

The alliance, which he claims has been unfairly treated, Toomasie said, wants to double that amount.

“I don’t really trust what they [the members of fisheries committee] maintain… they should have stuck with the allocation policy [in order to] carry out the decision,” he said.

The NWMB’s allocation policy for commercial marine fisheries shows an evaluation form that relies on a points system.

Points are awarded based on governance and business capacity, which includes such things as positive history in the fishery, Inuit involvement, such as level of Inuit ownership, and benefits to Nunavummiut, such as employment and improvements made in Inuit employment.

The alliance best maximizes benefits for Inuit, as 100 per cent of the benefits from the operation go to Inuit community owners, Toomasie said.

Toomasie added that all board members of the alliance are Inuit and they are the people who pass decisions onto staff.

The alliance has appealed the preliminary quota decision and is waiting to hear back from the fisheries committee, Toomasie said. 

The alliance was established in 2008 by the HTOs in Grise Fiord, Resolute Bay, Qikiqtarjuaq and Arctic Bay so they could participate in Nunavut’s offshore fishery for Greenland halibut, the fish usually known as turbot.

“It has been a long hard struggle for our Inuit organization that began in 2004, but we have finally realized our goal of 100 per cent ownership of own fishing vessel, the Suvak, and a profitable 2011 fishing operation,” Toomasie said.

After receiving turbot quotas in 2009 from the NWMB, the alliance purchased the $3.5-million Suvak with financial assistance from a number of Nunavut organizations.

The Suvak’s first full year of fishing operations was 2011 when it caught more than 850 metric tonnes of turbot in Nunavut waters and generated sales of more than $5 million.

The Suvak’s results in 2012 are exceeding last year’s results. The catch is up by 20 per cent. That means the Suvak will net more than 1,000 metric tonnes of turbot this year.

Two other turbot quota holders pay a company owned by “foreign interests” huge management fees to operate their trawlers, the alliance said in a news release.

And those same foreign owners also receive 49 per cent of the profits from their ownership of the trawlers, the alliance said.

“The fourth quota holder unlike the other three has not taken any steps to acquire its own harvesting capacity and instead sits back and collects millions of dollars in royalties from Nunavut’s quotas,” the alliance said. 

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