Lobster fishers in Area 24 have indicated in no uncertain terms they’re against a carapace size increase.
The vote was held at the request of industry members. The LFA 24 Advisory Committee held a series of meetings across the zone, giving fishers a chance to hear from Robert MacMillan, the provincial lobster biologist, on the state of lobster stocks in the Island’s largest fishing zone.
When the mail-in ballots were counted, 62 per cent of those voting were against moving the minimum size of 72 millimetres, while 38 per cent were open to a size increase. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans hasn’t given any indication it plans on increasing the size in the area, which comprises the north shore of the province.
The Prince Edward Island Fishermen’s Association released the results of a vote taken among Lobster Fishing Area 24 (Northside) fishers, which showed 62 per cent of them favoured leaving the measure where it’s currently at, 72 mm. Thirty-eight per cent of respondents to the November survey were willing to accept an increase.
Those results were similar to a vote taken in Area 26A in February 2016. Fishers in that zone (which comprises the spring fishery on the South shore) voted 61 per cent against any increase, while 39 per cent were willing to discuss the idea. The minimum size in that zone is also 72 millimetres and DFO hasn’t indicated it’s planning an increase.
That will likely mean the gap in the minimum size between the two spring zones and the fall fishery will continue to widen. Some Island fishers experienced a one millimetre increase to 73 millimetres this year. Former Fisheries and Oceans Minister Hunter Tootoo instituted the increase as part of a three-year plan to move the carapace size to 77 millimetres.
The move was requested by the 481 New Brunswick fishers, who share the zone with their Island counterparts. Unlike the Island fishers, who have developed a niche market for the smaller, canner sized lobsters, the New Brunswick fishers favour larger lobsters.
That is a real concern to Lee Knox of the Prince County Fishermen’s Association, the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association local that represents Island Area 25 fishers. While catches were up in most ports in the zone in 2016, Knox says that’s unlikely to continue if the planned increases proceed.
While he remains opposed to any increase, Knox says at the very least the increase must be phased in over a longer period. He says four millimeters over two years will create a significant hardship on the Island industry.