N.L. harvesters say ‘doom and gloom’ picture of crab industry isn’t accurate
ST. JOHN’S, NL – In the fishery, harvesters say talking overall trends is not helpful, as there are areas where snow crab numbers are not declining and to suggest otherwise is unfairly damaging.
The Telegram reported Oct. 16 on the ongoing “regime change” in Newfoundland and Labrador waters, highlighting the wrap-up of months of snow crab survey work on the Canadian Coast Guard ship Vladykov, by scientists with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).
The data collected still has to go to DFO’s stock assessment branch and through peer review, but after a look at over 35,000 crab around the province, a DFO biologist said there was, generally speaking, no sign of a wave of new recruits coming for the high-value fishery — worth $274 million in landed value in 2016.
Members and leadership of the Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) have spoken out since, saying the full picture of the crab resource has been repeatedly misrepresented and was not made clear in the news story.
“We know that crab is down in areas of the province. That’s beyond a shadow of a doubt and it’s been well reported, but the fishermen are saying it’s not down everywhere, and it’s not down everywhere in 3L,” said Ryan Cleary, president of FISHNL, speaking with the Telegra
Cleary said there is a disconnect between the reports of some fish harvesters and DFO science.
“(Harvesters) make the clear statement crab is healthy in some areas. That’s what they’re saying,” he said, condemning any “doom and gloom” blanket statements.
Crab fisherman Brad Doyle said it’s important for fish harvesters that the messages conveyed about the numbers be accurate and specific, because media reports can affect enterprise finances.
“Our catch rates again this year during our fishing season… our fishing season was phenomenal. We had excellent catch rates,” he said.
Beyond a single year’s catch, Doyle’s boat was part of survey work undertaken to support the same final stock assessment coming in early 2018. Doyle is from Carbonear and was surveying in an area between 30 miles and 120 miles off the northeast coast, in fishing area 3L. The results from his survey pots, he said, were positive.
“When I went out, I thought, this is great. It gives me a sure sense that the crab is there,” he said.
“The crab was in places that I didn’t expect. There were higher volumes in areas where I knew there was crab. The amount of females was astonishing — 75 to 100 females in a small-mesh pot.”
Some fishers are critical of information from the DFO regarding its latest stock assessment of snow crab.