Crab stocks in dis­pute

N.L. har­vesters say a ‘doom and gloom’ pic­ture of in­dus­try isn’t ac­cu­rate

The Beacon (Gander) - - Sports - BY ASH­LEY FITZ­PATRICK THE TELE­GRAM afitz­patrick@thetele­gram.com

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 has re­ported on the on­go­ing “regime change” in New­found­land and Labrador wa­ters, high­light­ing the wrapup 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 Tele­gram.

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 Wed­nes­day 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.”

Mean­while, FISH-NL was sched­uled to hold a news con­fer­ence Thurs­day, to speak to the separate is­sue of its ap­pli­ca­tion be­fore the Labour Re­la­tions Board for cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and sup­port for the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

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