North­ern crab har­vesters ques­tion need for quota cut

Min­is­ter Tootoo to visit next month to dis­cuss fish­ery

The Victoria Standard - - Front Page - NEIL'S HAR­BOUR

The Spring sea­son for the North Eastern Nova Sco­tia (N-ENS) snow crab fish­ery is over and early re­ports in­di­cate har­vesters had record catch rates de­spite a mas­sive quota cut be­ing im­posed on them. “The catches were phe­nom­e­nal com­pared to what we ex­pected. DFO told us our biomass was down 45% - some guys have had the high­est catch rates they’ve had in their life. Same traps, same gear, same date. It just doesn’t add up,” says Greg Or­gan, a lo­cal crab har­vester and Pres­i­dent of the N-ENS Snow Crab As­so­ci­a­tion. Or­gan says that two sep­a­rate, but re­lated is­sues, are im­pact­ing the fish­ery. The first in­volves this year’s de­ci­sion by the Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans (DFO) to re­duce re­gional quo­tas.

Based on sci­en­tific re­search con­ducted each Fall, the fish­able biomass in­dex (avail­able species in nearby oceans that could be caught) of snow crab was es­ti­mated to be 45% lower this year than last sea­son. As a pre­cau­tion, DFO took the steps of cut­ting re­gional quo­tas by 54%. How­ever, it took Or­gan just two days to catch three quo­tas worth of crab (this is pos­si­ble be­cause har­vesters of­ten team up and work more than one li­cence quota from a sin­gle ves­sel). He says this was the case for most har­vesters he knows and the catch rate didn’t slow down at all like it nor­mally does towards the end of a sparse sea­son. Boat quo­tas (how many pounds each boat can catch in a sea­son) are based on what is called the ‘Ex­ploita­tion Rate’, or the per­cent­age of to­tal biomass that a zone is al­lowed to har­vest. In a ‘Healthy Zone’, the ex­ploita­tion rate is 30%. That means that of the to­tal biomass in the zone, fish­ers can har­vest up to 30%, leav­ing 70% of the biomass in the wa­ter. The cut in quo­tas this sea­son down­graded the N-ENS zone to ‘Cau­tious’ and re­duced the ex­ploita­tion rate to 20%. This trans­lates into one of the low­est To­tal Al­low­able Catch

“I am def­i­nitely in sup­port of re-vis­it­ing num­bers.” Mark Eyk­ing, MP for Syd­ney-vic­to­ria

(TAC – a fig­ure mea­sured in ton­nage – all zones in the Sco­tia fish­ery must to­tal 100%) per­cent­ages that they’ve ex­pe­ri­enced in twenty years. The As­so­ci­a­tion says that if noth­ing is done, the quota cuts will re­sult in a loss of $6.5 Mil­lion rev­enue for 19 Cape Bre­ton com­mu­ni­ties - $2.5 mil­lion less snow crab com­ing ashore and a loss of $4 mil­lion for fish pro­cess­ing plants like the Vic­to­ria Fish­eries Co-op in New Haven. This year’s cut seems to only com­pound a big­ger is­sue that N-ENS har­vesters have been fac­ing since the fish­ery was re­struc­tured in the mid-2000’s. “The 2005 re­struc­tur­ing cre­ated an un­due hard­ship for the tra­di­tional fisher groups that wasn’t in­tended by Min­is­ter Re­gan when he tried to im­prove the fish­ery for ev­ery­body. We’re not propos­ing that our N-ENS fish­ery re­ceive the same amount as the South (S-ENS), we just want a fair share of the over­all TAC as was in­tended by the ad­vi­sory panel and the Min­is­ter. The re­port said we could ex­pect boat quo­tas of 40,000+ pounds. From the very first year, that has sim­ply not hap­pened,” says Or­gan. N-ENS rep­re­sen­ta­tives be­lieve that the sci­ence be­ing con­ducted is sound, but the po­lit­i­cal lines be­ing drawn in the wa­ters do not match the na­ture of the snow crab species. Un­like lob­ster that habi­tat largely in place, snow crab can move over ex­treme dis­tances to feed. “DFO Sci­ence has stated that the Eastern Nova Sco­tia snow crab biomass is a sin­gle bi­o­log­i­cal unit, the same re­source, from Bay St. Lawrence to Hal­i­fax. DFO has di­vided the en­tire zone into crab fish­ing ar­eas by draw­ing ar­bi­trary lines on the map and re­strict­ing fish­ers to cer­tain ar­eas where they can drop their traps. Prob­lem is, no one re­mem­bered to tell the snow crabs about these lines,” says Fred Kennedy, strate­gic ad­vi­sor to the N-ENS Snow Crab As­so­ci­a­tion. The in­de­pen­dent panel at the time rec­om­mended that all stake­hold­ers be pro­vided per­ma­nent ac­cess at the per­cent­age they en­joyed at the time the rec­om­men­da­tion were made. N-ENS at the time was at 15% (TAC). Now they are just be­low 3%. Though the spring sea­son is done, the har­vesters will be back out on the wa­ters for an­other month start­ing mid-july. N-ENS har­vesters are ask­ing the DFO to make im­me­di­ate changes to this year’s quo­tas, but also re­visit the re­struc­tur­ing that took place in 2005. “Our hope is that DFO will re­vise the cau­tious ex­ploita­tion rate they pro­vided in the ini­tial an­nounce­ment this sea­son and af­ter anal­y­sis re­cal­cu­late the rate at a more rea­son­able level. This is not sug­gest­ing we are look­ing for the dif­fer­ence be­tween 3% & 15% of TAC. We ap­pre­ci­ate there must be a "crawl, walk, run" process. We do not see this as reck­less. DFO Sci­ence has stated that the snow crab in the ENS Crab Fish­ing Ar­eas is of a sin­gle bi­o­log­i­cal unit. Hence, it seems the biomass should be ex­ploited at one num­ber and not as they have done for us this year,” Or­gan states. When reached for com­ment in Ot­tawa, Mark Eyk­ing, MP for Syd­ney-vic­to­ria, said he sup­ports the need for change.

“I’m def­i­nitely in sup­port of re­vis­it­ing num­bers. What I’d like to see is when there are cuts, ev­ery­body gets cut. And when there are in­creases, ev­ery­body sees in­creases. I think they are [N-ENS] tak­ing a big hit – more than oth­ers.” Eyk­ing will host Min­is­ter of Fish­eries, Oceans and the Cana­dian Coast Guard Hunter Tootoo next month when he vis­its Cape Bre­ton to dis­cuss the state of the fish­ery.

Cour­tesy of N-ENS Snow Crab As­so­ci­a­tion

A trap from Crab Fish­ing Area 22 (part of the amal­ga­mated N-ENS zone) is hauled from the wa­ter dur­ing the open­ing week of the crab fish­ing sea­son. The North-eastern Nova Sco­tia Snow Crab As­so­ci­a­tion is lob­by­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to re­write the rules on how al­lowances are dis­trib­uted.

Above dis­plays zones of the Sco­tia Snow Crab Fish­ery as de­fined in 2005. Since that time, Zones 2022 are now the N-ENS Zone while Zones 23 and 24 no longer have let­tered sub-zones.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.