An up­date on crab

Sci­ence branch of DFO says catch lim­its re­duced to main­tain stock biomass

The Western Star - - FRONT PAGE - FRANK GALE [email protected]­ern­star.com Twit­ter: @WS_FrankGale

DFO said while there have been mod­est in­creases in crab in some di­vi­sions, the amount of re­cruit­ment is an­tic­i­pated to re­main low in most ar­eas in 2019.

STEPHENVIL­LE — Some fish har­vesters out of Lit­tle Port Har­mon in Stephenvil­le be­lieve their quota cuts are not jus­ti­fied af­ter fill­ing their al­low­able catch in just one haul.

They say quo­tas were cut by 50 per cent in 2018 and an­other 25 per cent this fish­ing sea­son, and long­time fish har­vester Kirby Coates said with that it’s hard to make a liv­ing at it.

“They (DFO) keep cut­ting us de­spite there be­ing plenty of crab out there (St. Ge­orge’s Bay),” Coates said.

The sci­ence branch of Fish­eries and Oceans Canada of DFO said the depart­ment set the to­tal al­low­able catch for snow crab with a view to main­tain­ing the stock biomass around its cur­rent level.

Ja­son Reader, who has his own li­cence but went out the first day of the sea­son with Renny Hickey on the Long Cove Pride, said they set pots on Satur­day at 8 a.m. and 21 hours later they hauled their pots with 20 to 30 pounds of crab in each.

“How can you make a liv­ing off 1,900 pounds?” Reader asked.

The emailed re­sponse from DFO said while there have been mod­est in­creases in crab in some di­vi­sions, the amount of re­cruit­ment (or new shelled crab be­com­ing avail­able to the fish­ery) is an­tic­i­pated to re­main low in most di­vi­sions in 2019, in­clud­ing the Bay St. Ge­orge area.

The depart­ment said re­searchers ob­served a sharp de­cline in the pro­por­tion of male crab reach­ing fish­able size in most di­vi­sions, and this may im­pact short-term prospects for re­cruit­ment of crab to the fish­ery.

Reader said the prob­lem is that when fish­ers are in­structed to put out test pots for a sur­vey, they’re in­structed to put them in places where they know there is not much crab.

He said there should be more small­er­mesh pots in the strings be­cause the small crab are get­ting out, so you don’t get the right in­di­ca­tion of what’s there.

Re­gard­ing this Post-Sea­son Trap Sur­vey, the depart­ment said this is be­ing tran­si­tioned from an ini­tia­tive solely de­signed to mea­sure the fish­ery to­ward a more rep­re­sen­ta­tive and sci­en­tif­i­cally sound sur­vey.

The sur­vey meth­ods will even­tu­ally re­flect other crab sur­veys con­ducted by DFO Sci­ence.

Changes in­clude ran­dom­iz­ing some as­sessed sites in ar­eas not rou­tinely fished and in­cor­po­rat­ing more small-mesh pots into the sur­vey.

The sur­vey changes are a re­sult of pre­vi­ous stock as­sess­ments that found the Post-Sea­son Trap Sur­vey to be un­re­li­able in mea­sur­ing re­cruit­ment and are be­ing im­ple­mented with sup­port and col­lab­o­ra­tion from har­vester rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Fish Food and Al­lied Work­ers union.

The depart­ment said its happy to hear the in­dus­try is in­ter­ested in set­ting more small-mesh pots as this is con­sis­tent with their other crab sur­veys. In re­cent years more small-mesh pots have been added and the goal is to have a small-mesh pot in­cluded at every sta­tion soon and even­tu­ally mul­ti­ple small-mesh pots at every sta­tion.

It said this is a process and they are get­ting there and will con­tinue work­ing with the FFAW on tran­si­tion­ing and bet­ter­ing this im­por­tant sur­vey.

This year, all sci­ence ad­vice was based on data from orig­i­nal sur­vey ar­eas and the new ran­dom site data were not in­cor­po­rated.

THE WEST­ERN STAR FRANK GALE/

Fish­ers Chad Hickey, left, and Ja­son Reader lift a crate of crabs from the Long Cove Pride onto the wharf at Lit­tle Port Har­mon on Sun­day.

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