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Majority of P.E.I. fall lobster fishermen favour fishing curfew

P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association managing director, Ian MacPherson, from left, PEIFA president Bobby Jenkins and Prince County Fishermen Association directors Shelton Barlow and Mike Myers review reports during the PCFA’s annual meeting Tuesday in O’Leary.
P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association managing director, Ian MacPherson, from left, PEIFA president Bobby Jenkins and Prince County Fishermen Association directors Shelton Barlow and Mike Myers review reports during the PCFA’s annual meeting Tuesday in O’Leary. - Eric McCarthy

Survey results released at group’s annual meeting

O’LEARY, P.E.I. - Prince Edward Island’s fall lobster fishermen have voted in favour of supporting the Maritime Fishermen’s Union proposal to have the Department of Fisheries and Oceans enforce a curfew in the Lobster Fishing Area the two organizations share.

The result of the mail-in vote was announced at the Prince County Fishermen Association’s annual meeting Tuesday, Jan. 22 in O’Leary.

Of the 149 fishermen who returned surveys, 78 of them, or 52.3 per cent, indicated they were in favour of fishing trips not beginning before 4 a.m. and boats being off the water by 9 p.m. The proposal was opposed by 69 fishermen, or 46.3 per cent of respondents, and two surveys were deemed spoiled.

“We will be sending that off to DFO," PCFA president Lee Knox told the membership.

“There’s a good chance you will be staying in your port from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.”

Pointing out the MFU has been requesting the curfew, Knox said there's a good chance it will be part of this year's fishery.

He said DFO will set the criteria on how it will be worded.

“Whenever the regulation comes in, it won’t be, ‘leaving from your home port,’ it will be, ‘leaving from port,’ so I don’t know how they’re distinguishing, exactly, the criteria behind it.”

There were 213 fishermen eligible to vote on the proposal.

Unlike the lobster carapace issue, which came up for extended discussion at different points during the annual meeting, the curfew result did not generate discussion.

There was, however, some consideration given to removing a line that restricts the movement of licenses from one end of the district to the other, but a motion to that effect was subsequently dropped.

“Why is there such a pushback? There’s no support, provincially. If you could increase your portfolio by $35 or $40 million, that would be well worth doing, wouldn’t it?”
-Jim Cooke

Forced further south

Lobster landings for P.E.I. boats in LFA 25 were reported as 8.26 million pounds for 2018, an increase of nearly 11 per cent from last year.

But fishermen in the north end of the district, especially from Miminegash to North Cape, report the increase is not occurring in the waters where they have traditionally fished and they are forced to sail further south to set their gear.

Many fishermen blame the lower catches on the smaller carapace size limit in the spring season, just around the North Cape line. They argued landings around the province would increase if all districts moved to a 77 mm lobster. LFA 25 moved to a 77 mm lobster in 2018, while LFAs 24 and 26A fish a 73-mm lobster.

Jim Cooke, a Howard’s Cove fisherman, suggested to P.E.I Fisheries minister Robert Henderson that the Island economy could benefit by around 6.5 million additional pounds of lobster if the measure was uniform.

“Why is there such a pushback? There’s no support, provincially,” Cooke said. “If you could increase your portfolio by $35 or $40 million, that would be well worth doing, wouldn’t it?”

Henderson agreed wealth generation is positive, but he stressed that decisions on size increases need to be science-based and driven by fishers from within that habitat.

Some association members stressed, though, they should not impose their will on another zone.

“So, it was forced on us by New Brunswick, and now we want to force it on somebody else? Wow,” Henry Doucette said.

P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association president Bobby Jenkins suggested all districts will likely get to 77 mm eventually, but not at the speed at which LFA 25 wants them to catch up.

Trevor Barlow suggested the catch increases in LFA 25 is a good news story that the PEIFA should be promoting to the spring districts.

RELATED: Mail-in vote on fishing curfew coming for Prince County lobster fishermen

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