Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada Meets With Provinces on Southern Gulf Snow Crab Fishery

April 22, 2010 14:20

OTTAWA - The Honourable Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, met with her provincial counterparts from Quebec, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island to discuss issues affecting the snow crab fishery in the southern Gulf of St Lawrence. Fishing fleets are scheduled to begin their annual snow crab harvest this week. With the crab stock at a low point in its natural cycle of abundance, the 2010 fishery poses particular challenges, reports with reference to Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

For conservation purposes, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has set the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for 2010 at 7,700 tonnes. The 63% reduction in quota reflects the significant drop in biomass this year as a result of the natural life cycle of the crab in this zone, which sees stocks increase and decrease in cycles of about ten years, the last high peak being observed in 2004.

DFO places a high priority on the long-term sustainability of the snow crab resource. This reduction in the allowable catch is based on solid science evidence and knowledge gained from previous cycles that indicates conservation of snow crab stocks throughout the low points in their abundance cycle is critical to ensuring subsequent periods of high abundance. In fact, current evidence points to an increase in abundance in 2012 as long as normal, natural survival rates take place.

"Consistent with my responsibility to manage the fishery, I have already instructed my officials to offer the maximum flexibility possible to harvesters under the rules in order to permit them to significantly reduce their operating costs and promote the viability of their fishing enterprises during this difficult period," said Minister Shea. These options now include, for example, temporary quota transfers, the creation of partnerships, combining several licence holders on a vessel, and flexibility on vessel-size restrictions. These measures will remain in place until stocks return to the higher end of the cycle.

Minister Shea indicated that the department has already provided these options to the various fleets and is pleased to note that some harvesters have begun to take advantage of them. The Minister has also asked her officials to continue to explore other administrative measures available to DFO that will help harvesters address the challenges of this fishing season.

Minister Shea, along with the Hon. Rick Doucet, New Brunswick Fisheries Minister, the Hon. Neil LeClair, PEI Minister of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Rural Development, and George Mamelonet, Parliamentary Assistant to the Quebec Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, also agreed to continue to share information about activities being undertaken within their respective jurisdictions to assist snow crab fleets, processing plant workers and communities and First Nations who are involved in the harvesting and processing of snow crab.
To support longer term sustainability of the fishery, DFO has already begun to take advantage of up-to-date science to enhance its precautionary approach to the management of this stock. Based on current science-based evidence on the cyclical nature of the stock, the framework, when completed, will establish decision guidelines for setting the annual TAC that will help to minimize the risks of adversely affecting the biomass when it is at the lower points of its abundance cycle. This approach will further support conservation, and improve the longer-term predictability of fishery management decisions so that the industry can plan for the future.

Last month, Fisheries and Oceans also announced that sharing of the quota among fleets fishing for snow crab in areas 12, 18, 25 and 26 of the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence will be stabilized for a five-year period from 2010 to 2014, meaning there will be no change in the distribution of the snow crab quota. "Stabilizing access is the only logical path to a profitable fishery, as it allows fleets to better plan their fishing operations over the long-term," said Minister Shea.

The 2010 snow crab fishery in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence will close on July 18.

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