Pro­posal con­fuses crab fish­ers

Area 19 be­ing con­sid­ered for ma­rine pro­tected area

Cape Breton Post - - CAPE BRETON - BY DAVID JALA david.jala@cb­post.com

A group of Cape Bre­ton snow crab fish­ers says it’s con­cerned that a pro­posed ma­rine pro­tec­tion zone off the is­land’s north­west coast could en­dan­ger the economies of lo­cal fish­ing vil­lages.

And, mem­bers of the area 19 Snow Crab Fish­er­men’s As­so­ci­a­tion say they also felt blind­sided af­ter learn­ing the fed­eral De­part­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans had un­ex­pect­edly listed their fish­ing grounds as the lo­ca­tion of a pro­posed ma­rine pro­tected area.

Board mem­ber and long­time fisher Bill Mac­Don­ald said the as­so­ci­a­tion only be­came aware that their area (a rec­tan­gu­lar shaped zone ex­tend­ing from In­ver­ness to north of the tip of Cape Bre­ton and west­ward into the Gulf of St. Lawrence) was be­ing con­sid­ered for a ma­rine pro­tected area dur­ing a re­cent meet­ing with of­fi­cials from the DFO’s oceans man­age­ment sec­tion.

“We had met with them in the fall and when we looked at the DFO web­site it was never a fac­tor for us — we al­ways thought it was other places,” said Mac­Don­ald, adding that the area 19 fish­ers learned about the pro­posal dur­ing a Jan. 17 meet­ing with de­part­ment of­fi­cials.

“They told us that we were sud­denly an area of in­ter­est, so we’re just as con­fused as any­one else — we’re just blind­sided by it be­cause we thought there’d be a process and there’s been very lit­tle in­for­ma­tion about it.

“How did it get changed so quickly? How did we qual­ify so quickly? We can’t iden­tify any­thing in par­tic­u­lar in our zone that is in need of pro­tec­tion.”

In speak­ing for the snow crab fish­ers along Cape Bre­ton’s west and north coast­lines, Mac­Don­ald said there is plenty of con­fu­sion as to the con­se­quences of hav­ing part of their fish­ing ground des­ig­nated as a ma­rine pro­tected area.

“We have a well man­aged fish­ery here, we only have 150 fish­ers, we only catch male snow crab, we only fish for a few weeks a year, we’re not in­tru­sive — we just don’t un­der­stand,” he said.

With area 19 fish­ers rang­ing from In­ver­ness to Bay St. Lawrence, the re­gion falls un­der the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of both Syd­ney-Vic­to­ria MP Mark Eyk­ing and Cape Bre­ton-Canso MP Rodger Cuzner.

Eyk­ing said the process of iden­ti­fy­ing and defin­ing po­ten­tial ma­rine pro­tected ar­eas is still in the pre­lim­i­nary stages and that lo­cal fish­ers should not be wor­ried about los­ing their liveli­hood.

“I guess we need to do a bet­ter job in ex­plain­ing to fish­ers in the dif­fer­ent ar­eas about the dif­fer­ent types of ma­rine pro­tected ar­eas — it doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean that in­shore fish­ers would be banned from an area or be un­able to har­vest in an area,” said Eyk­ing.

“It’s not about keep­ing fish­ers out of these ar­eas, it’s to pro­tect the ma­rine area from po­ten­tial heavy-us­age or bad us­age that could af­fect ma­rine life — we’re look­ing at dif­fer­ent mod­els and we’re def­i­nitely go­ing to have the fish­ers in­volved and we’ll look at how these ar­eas can help them, espe­cially those in the in­shore fish­ery.”

Eyk­ing said new ma­rine pro­tected ar­eas are part of his gov­ern­ment’s man­date to bet­ter pro­tect and reg­u­late Cana­dian waters.

“One of the key things here is pro­tect­ing their fish stocks,” he said. “We be­lieve we have one of the best man­aged fish­eries in the world and we want to con­tinue that, we want to make sure that these sen­si­tive ar­eas are pro­tected.”

Mean­while, the De­part­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans has yet to de­ter­mine the spe­cific bound­aries for the St. Anns Bank ma­rine pro­tected area that was se­lected last year fol­low­ing an eight-month con­sul­ta­tion process with var­i­ous in­ter­est groups.

Ac­cord­ing to the Cana­dian Parks and Wilder­ness So­ci­ety’s Nova Sco­tia chap­ter, St. Anns Bank is home to deepsea corals and sponges, sev­eral species-at-risk pop­u­la­tions, in­clud­ing the At­lantic wolff­ish, and is an im­por­tant sum­mer for­ag­ing area for the en­dan­gered leatherback turtle.

The Cana­dian gov­ern­ment has stated it is com­mit­ted to des­ig­nat­ing 10 per cent of the coun­try’s ma­rine and coastal ar­eas as ma­rine pro­tected ar­eas. Its 2016 bud­get ear­marked about $124-mil­lion over five years to sup­port ma­rine con­ser­va­tion ac­tiv­i­ties.

“We be­lieve we have one of the best man­aged fish­eries in the world and we want to con­tinue that, we want to make sure that these sen­si­tive ar­eas are pro­tected.”

Syd­ney-Vic­to­ria MP Mark Eyk­ing

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