Crab con­cerns

DFO con­sid­er­ing a pre­cau­tion­ary ap­proach

The Central Voice - - Front Page - BY ADAM RAN­DELL Adam.ran­[email protected]­cen­tralvoice.ca

Snow crab quo­tas for 2019 won’t be de­ter­mined un­til next year, but a Twillingate fish­er­man al­ready has con­cerns.

Af­ter at­tend­ing a Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans (DFO) con­sul­ta­tion with har­vesters in Gan­der Nov. 21 about the pro­posed ap­pli­ca­tion of a pre­cau­tion­ary ap­proach for the species, Neil Stuck­less feels his quota could be at risk.

Ac­cord­ing to DFO, a pre­cau­tion­ary ap­proach prin­ci­ple would es­tab­lish the over­all health for snow crab in New­found­land and Labrador. The pro­posal has three lev­els of clas­si­fi­ca­tion – crit­i­cal, cau­tious, and, healthy.

Based on an area’s health clas­si­fi­ca­tion, a per­cent­age based to­tal al­low­able catch (TAC) would be ap­plied.

Stuck­less fishes the 3K di­vi­sion – which spans from Bon­av­ista Bay to the south coast of Labrador. There are five sub­sec­tion ar­eas – 3A, 3BC, 3D, 3B and 3C – within 3K. And depend­ing on how a di­vi­sion health is clas­si­fied, he said, it could bring about a de­cline in quo­tas even though one par­tic­u­lar fish­ing area has a greater crab re­source than oth­ers.

He fishes within 3D, from Twillingate.

“3D is the best it’s been in 20 years,” he said. “We’ve took cuts, we stopped gill­net­ting and drag­ging to get stocks back up and we’re fi­nally see­ing the ben­e­fits of that now.

“We were ac­tu­ally ready for an in­crease, but now, if this plan goes ahead, in­stead of get­ting an in­crease, we could ac­tu­ally face cuts (if 3K over­all) is down.”

Los­ing voice

While DFO says it has been work­ing on this ap­proach for some time, it’s the first area har­vesters have heard of it.

Stuck­less is con­cerned it will leave out the opin­ions of those who work the sea.

“The union, DFO and fish­er­men sit down to­gether and have their say about the stock and how the quota should go for the year,” he said.

Adding, catch rates, log books and on­board gov­ern­ment ob­servers of the fish­ery through­out the sea­son are used to help make an in­formed de­ci­sion on quo­tas as well.

He feels a pre­cau­tion­ary ap­proach could elim­i­nate the need for har­vesters in­put.

“It’s draw­ing up a new plan to man­age the fish­ery without the in­put of fish har­vesters,” he said. “It be­comes some­one in Ot­tawa, that doesn’t know what a crab looks like, punch­ing in a few num­bers and hand­ing us back a quota.”

The Fish, Food and Al­lied Work­ers (FFAW) union has been hear­ing the same con­cerns.

“Har­vesters are un­der­stand­ably an­gered at only be­ing brought into the dis­cus­sion at this late stage. FFAW-Unifor is call­ing on DFO to go back to the draw­ing board with con­sul­ta­tions on these is­sues,” said FFAW-Unifor pres­i­dent Keith Sul­li­van in a press re­lease.

DFO

DFO has been re­luc­tant to speak pub­licly about the hy­po­thet­i­cals of a pro­posed pre­cau­tion­ary ap­proach for snow crab in New­found­land and Labrador. How­ever, to pro­vide some clar­i­fi­ca­tion on its frame­work, An­nette Rum­bolt, re­gional man­ager of Re­source Man­age­ment, and, Derek Os­borne, sec­tion head for shell­fish, agreed to speak with The Cen­tral Voice.

The model is de­signed to pro­vide the in­dus­try with sus­tain­abil­ity, and would be used to es­tab­lish the TAC for an area.

Along with main­tain­ing the reg­u­lar science, such as the an­nual stock assess­ment, the draft pre­cau­tion­ary ap­proach would also look at three met­rics for ex­am­i­na­tion dur­ing the study — egg clutch — the full amount of eggs in fe­male; the catch per unit ef­fort; and the dis­card – un­der­size crab, soft­shell and fe­males.

Once the health of a stock is de­ter­mined, each di­vi­sion will re­ceive a clas­si­fi­ca­tion, which would de­ter­mine the ex­ploita­tion range in­dex for a sur­veyed area.

“We con­sider the pre­cau­tion­ary ap­proach the very first step in mov­ing to­wards an ecosys­tem ap­proach to fish­eries man­age­ment,” Os­borne said.

While noth­ing is fi­nal­ized, Rum­bolt said the draft pre­cau­tion­ary ap­proach works with a catch rate per­cent­age of 0-21 per cent of stock for crit­i­cal zones, 22-63 per cent for cau­tious zones, and greater than 63 per cent for healthy zones.

“From there we would still go to the com­mit­tees and ask for rec­om­men­da­tions on what the TAC should be, but it would have to be within the per­cent­ages as­so­ci­ated with that zone,” she said.

Os­borne said hav­ing the clas­si­fi­ca­tion sys­tem in place cre­ates trans­parency, and hav­ing the es­tab­lished catch rates per­cent­ages man­ages ex­pec­ta­tions.

“There are fixed rules once you know you’re in the healthy zone, this is what the ex­ploita­tion rate will be,” he said. “What also makes it dif­fer­ent from the cur­rent ap­proach is we have very clear in­di­ca­tors say­ing it’s healthy now, ver­sus it’s cau­tious now, ver­sus it’s crit­i­cal now. There’s no guess­ing if a stock is healthy or if we have to worry about it.”

Os­borne said there may have been some con­fu­sion about the pre­cau­tion­ary ap­proach us­ing a biomass to de­ter­mine the health of a stock, how­ever, the biomass isn’t the fo­cus.

“We are hear­ing com­ments that we are try­ing to build it back to a cer­tain ref­er­ence point, but that’s not the case,” he said. “The pre­cau­tion­ary ap­proach is very spe­cific to crab it­self, how crab live and how crab func­tion. We don’t have a tar­get for a biomass, we have a tar­get for health.”

The pre­cau­tion­ary ap­proach would be ap­plied to all fish­ing ar­eas within New­found­land and Labrador, but it is pre­ma­ture to say what it would mean to next year’s fish­ery.

“We’ve only just be­gun con­sul­ta­tions on the pre­cau­tion­ary ap­proach, we haven’t for­mally im­ple­mented it,” he said. “We do our stock assess­ment for crab ev­ery Fe­bru­ary. We can’t say what would ac­tu­ally hap­pen un­til we know the state of the stock is.”

Rum­bolt ac­knowl­edged there are sep­a­rate ar­eas within a fish­ing di­vi­sion, and said each area could see fluc­tu­a­tions with its quota.

“Each of the fish­ing ar­eas could still have dif­fer­ent in­creases or de­creases based on their own area,” she said. “If the pre­cau­tion­ary ap­proach comes into place, they would still have to stay within the per­cent­age of the (pre­cau­tion­ary ap­proach) zone.”

Main­tain­ing voice

DFO has been work­ing on the pro­posal since 2012, and the con­sul­ta­tions were the first time the depart­ment has spo­ken with har­vesters pub­licly about it. Os­borne said a draft was needed to do so.

Rum­bolt said the in­put of fish­er­men would be needed as much as ever.

“We would def­i­nitely still need that in­put,” she said. “There is still room (within the zone clas­si­fi­ca­tions) for dis­cus­sion with the com­mit­tee to see what their rec­om­men­da­tion for the TAC would be.”

Os­borne added data col­lected from har­vesters and the union would re­main in place as well.

Rum­bolt said there are plans in the new year to form a work­ing group of fish har­vesters to dis­cuss the cre­ation of har­vest con­trol rules. From that work­ing group, she an­tic­i­pates go­ing back to the ad­vi­sory board in March with a pro­posal for the pre­cau­tion­ary ap­proach for feed­back.

And while fish­er­men have been voic­ing dis­ap­proval about the pro­posed plan, Rum­bolt doesn’t see it pre­vent­ing the pre­cau­tion­ary ap­proach from go­ing ahead.

“The Gov­ern­ment of Canada has signed on to cre­at­ing pre­cau­tion­ary ap­proach for all ma­jor fish­eries,” she said. “As nice as it would be to think we could prob­a­bly get rid of it, I don’t fore­see that be­ing pos­si­ble.

“I think we will have to col­lab­o­rate to de­velop and find so­lu­tions to de­velop a pre­cau­tion­ary ap­proach that is suit­able for ev­ery­body.”

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