© BRIAN MCINNIS - THE GUARDIAN
Boats loaded down with lobster traps jam the harbour at Murray Harbour, P.E.I Wednesday April 30, 2014, which was the openig day of the lobster fishery on the Island's south shore.
Although the Prince Edward Island Fishermen’s Association has condemned a Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ decision to add five days to the end of the spring lobster fishery in New Brunswick’s Lobster Fishing Area 23, a co-chair of the Area 24 Lobster Advisory Committee on Prince Edward Island’s north shore views the DFO move as precedent-setting.
David Lewis noted that LFA 24 was advised no extensions would be considered in the event that the start of the season was delayed by ice or weather. He said Prince Edward Island fishermen were delayed one day at the start of the season and, fishermen in the area gave little thought to asking for an extension.
He acknowledged the situation might have been different had fishermen been delayed five days because of ice like their New Brunswick counterparts were.
The five-day extension has now concluded.
Because LFA 23 was granted the extension on the tail end of the season, Lewis suggested P.E.I. fishermen will feel justified in asking for an extension should weather impact their season in the future.
The PEIFA issued a statement on the weekend strongly objecting to DFO’s handling of the LFA 23 lobster extension, and indicating it would be contacting both DFO and the Federal Fisheries Minister’s office to express concerns about the change of practice and what it views as inconsistent enforcement of DFO policy. It also suggested the extended season could negatively impact larval drift in neighbouring fishing zones.
The PEIFA notes a long-standing DFO policy of discouraging and refusing weather-related season requests and it points to DFO’s recent refusal of a request by LFA 25 for a one day earlier start to their upcoming fall season.
“DFO cited impact on the resource as the reason for not granting a one day change for LFA25, however there does not appear to be any resource issues related to the five-day extension granted to LFA 23,” remarked PEIFA president Mike McGeoghegan.
The PEIFA also took exception to the lack of dialogue with neighbouring LFAs when DFO considered and approved the LFA 23 extension.