Sweetening the (lobster) pot

Clayton Hunt
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With fewer harvesters at play, the industry is expected to be more viable

The Lobster Fishery Sustainability Program, which ends on March 31, will definitely have a positive effect on lobster harvesters’ bottom lines in the future, says the plan’s co-ordinator.

Bill Broderick, who’s also the inshore director with the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union (FFAW), said the program achieved its goal to increase incomes by significantly reducing lobster fishing capacity in Fortune Bay, the southwest coast and on the west coast through voluntary trap reductions and lobster licence retirements.

Chesley Lambert of Harbour Breton was active in the fishery in 2013 and will be one of the harvesters hoping to see an increase in income due to the retirement plan. — Photo by Rosalie Lambert

In other words, there are fewer players now to share the pot.

According to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the program — first announced in November 2011 — has permanently removed 105,000 lobster traps from the fishery (a 36 per cent reduction) as well as 266 lobster licences (a 24 per cent reduction).

Broderick said some harvesters in the Bay St. George and the Port au Port Peninsula/Bay of Islands area saw a 40 per cent increase in their gross incomes in the 2013 fishing season as compared to 2011.

He said science has shown that harvesters catch about 80 to 85 per cent of the available lobsters in any given area in a season, regardless of the number of pots in the water.

With the number of pots tremendously reduced in some places, it stands to reason that the harvesters remaining in the fishery will see an increase in catches and their incomes, since the same number of lobsters will likely be caught.

The program is also credited with improving the viability of other fisheries, since it prompted the cancellation of approximately 700 licences for other species owned by lobster licencees who retired under the program.

“This unique arrangement has improved the viability of lobster fishing enterprises for those who wish to be long-term participants,” said Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Keith Hutchings. “This, in turn, benefits provincial rural communities that are reliant on this resource.”

The Atlantic Lobster Sustainability Measures Program was cost-shared by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the provincial government and FFAW-Unifor.

“There is now a better balance between the number of participants in the fishery and the available resource,” said Earle McCurdy, president of FFAW-Unifor.

Broderick said the FFAW will be carefully studying the effects of lobster licence retirements in the Fortune Bay area this year.


The Coaster

Organizations: Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Geographic location: Port au Port, Bay of Islands, Fortune Bay

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