Fall fishermen want uniform carapace measure for all seasons

Eric McCarthy newsroom@journalpioneer.com
Published on January 10, 2017

Lobster fishing

O’LEARY, P.E.I. — Prince Edward Island’s fall lobster fishermen want the scheduled carapace size increases slowed down and they want their measure to apply to the Island’s spring fisheries.

Last year Federal Fisheries Minister Hunter Tootoo announced a one-millimeter increase in the minimum legal carapace length in Lobster Fishing Area 25 and scheduled subsequent increases of two millimeters a year in 2017 and 2018.

If the increases go ahead as scheduled and no changes take place in LFAs 24 and 26A, the Island’s spring districts, the fall fishermen will not be able to land lobster smaller than 77 mm by 2018 while the spring fishermen will be landing 72 mm.

Despite record landings in 2016, fall fishermen attending the annual meeting of the Prince County Fishermen’s Association Monday in O’Leary expressed concern the subsequent increases will be hurtful, especially so if the neighbouring districts are permitted to catch lobsters that they have to throw back.

As the marathon four and a half-hour meeting was drawing to a close Monday, fishermen made three trips to the front of the hall to vote on motions, the last of which was on what position the PCFA should advance at Southern Gulf lobster meetings this Wednesday and Thursday.

Association president Lee Knox reported that 91 per cent of the fishermen who voted were in favor of P.E.I. not moving at all on carapace size or moving as one. That is the position he will be pitching during the meetings.

What that motion proposes is that if LFA 25 is required to go up in carapace length, then the spring districts 24 and 26A should have to follow suit.

Both of the spring districts voted last year in favour of leaving the measure at 72 mm.

“We didn’t want it to come to this,” said Knox, but he pointed out LFA 25 suffered badly in the early 90s, the last time DFO moved the fall measure without moving the measure in LFA 24. That resulted in a three-mm difference “and it burnt us badly,” Knox recalls.

The PCFA is also working with a group of fishermen in New Brunswick who want to slow down the increases in LFA 25. Knox told membership that if enough NB signatures are obtained the NB and P.E.I fishermen will work together to try to persuade the Fisheries minister, Dominic LeBlanc, to take another look at the schedule.

During the annual meeting Knox challenged Egmont MP Bobby Morrissey for suggesting in a year-end interview that a two-mm increase would not be harmful. He reminded the MP that he had agreed to work with the fishermen to try to convince the minister to slow the schedule.

Morrissey stood by his position and insisted that if fishermen don’t want the two-mm increase that is the position he will take with the minister. “I will defend your position you put forward.”