More than 100 fishers from Lobster Fishing Areas (LFAs) 33, 34 and 35 came together in Yarmouth on Sept. 20 for the second annual Southwest Nova Scotia (SWNS) Lobster Forum, where the most pressing issues facing the lobster fishing were brought to the forefront and addressed head-on.
Organized by the Maritime Fishermen’s Union (MFU) Local 9, Coldwater Lobster Association, Scotia Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association and the Bay of Fundy Fishermen’s Association, industry experts, leaders and government officials were brought together to discuss such issues as Marine Protected Areas, Atlantic right whale entanglement, market conditions, federal tax change implications and the need to create and implement a bycatch monitoring and data collection system before the 2018/19 season.
“We strived for a balance between government, industry and experts in all of the topics presented,” says Judith Maxwell from the Scotia Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association. “We believe we had the most knowledgeable people in the room” for the topics discussed.
The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) was also well represented at the forum, with presentations from Assistant Deputy Minister on Fisheries Policy, Morley Knight, area director David Whorley and species at risk biologist Cathy Merriman. Morley, who travelled from Ottawa for the forum, spoke about pending changes to the Fisheries Act, the owner operator policy and the Food and Ceremonial Fishery.
“We were especially pleased to have a government representative in the room that faced the current issues head on and was open to frank discussion with the fishing industry,” says Colin Sproul, a member of the forum’s planning committee.
The need to create a framework and plan for the implementation of a bycatch monitoring system was the key topic at the forum, with fishers breaking into working groups to answer two questions: Do you want industry to create a bycatch plan or do you want DFO to do it for you? And: If you want industry to create the plan, what would you like to see in this plan? Workshop participants gave organizations a clear mandate to create a plan for industry by industry, which is already being worked on.
“This year’s forum showed once again how much can be accomplished when fishermen’s associations work together for the future of their fishery,” says Graeme Gawn, president of MFU Local 9. “It’s imperative we have this kind of collaboration.”