Tags helping sciencists understand lobster

DFO offers rewards for information

Brandon Anstey banstey@ganderbeacon.ca
Published on July 19, 2014
George Feltham of Sandy Cove holds up his catch of the day. Lobsters in the area have grown in size over the last few years, said Blair Thorne, biologist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Feltham agreed. — Beacon file photo

As fishermen aim to protect the lobster fishery on the Eastport Peninsula, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) encourages fishermen in the area to submit information on tagged lobsters through a contest.

Blair Thorne is an oceans biologist with DFO. This contest, he said, will help the department get a better understanding of the lobster resource in the area.

“The more tag returns we get, the bigger picture we have of the marine protected area, how and if the lobsters are moving, the size and the age, that type of thing,” Thorne told The Beacon.

The contest includes prizes for anyone who returns information on tagged lobsters, with their names entered for the grand prize draw of a gift certificate from a marine supply business.

It’s a way to reward fishermen who send information, but more importantly it’s a way for DFO to get a better understanding of the management area on the Eastport Peninsula, said Thorne.

“We ask commercial harvesters who catch the lobsters with tags to send us information that includes the tag number, the area where it was caught, if it’s male or female, is it berried or v-notched,” said Thorne.

“We also ask if it’s undersized or legal (82.5 millimetres). If it’s undersized they’ll put it back. We’d like them to measure the lobsters, too, if they have the tools to do so.”

George Feltham, a lobster harvester from Sandy Cove who participates in the tag return program, said it’s a great way for DFO to get a close look at what’s going on with lobster in the area.

“It’s definitely good for the science of it,” said Feltham. “Sometimes there’s a lot of fishermen who do a lot of work that people don’t realize they don’t get paid for.”

The Marine Protected Area was established in 2005. A group of fishermen in the Eastport area advocated for putting measures in place to ensure a sustainable lobster fishery into the future. It’s a move that’s now paying off, said Feltham, who noted the lobsters in the area have increased in size.

“I certainly believe the project is well worthwhile,” he said. “We’ve seen some decent landings this year, and we’re seeing a lot of lobsters that wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for the work that was done by a number of individuals.

“It seems like your run of lobsters is much bigger than it was in the past.”

The contest, he added, not only monitors information, but also keeps fishers interested in helping. According to Thorne, there were 16,000-19,000 lobsters tagged in the area last year, and there are approximately 50 lobsters harvesters in the area.

“We’ve been doing the tagging pretty well yearly, so there are a lot of lobsters tagged in the area,” said Thorne. “Once the season is over, fishermen will compile all their data and fill out the sheets to send us.”

The contest entries are limited to 50 tags, but DFO is encouraging fishermen to return information on all tagged lobsters.

The tag-return program is specific to the Eastport Marine Protected Area