Management of Lobster in Atlantic Canada

Where does the Lobster Fishing Area 27 (LFA27) fit in this picture?

The lobster fishery in Canada has one of the longest histories of regulation. The first conservation measure, put in place in the early 1870s, was the protection of egg-bearing females.

The Canadian picture:

Fisheries and Oceans Canada manages 45 lobster fishing areas (or LFAs, see attached map), in which 10,000 licensed harvesters across Atlantic Canada and Quebec participate.  Lobster populations are healthy and sustainably managed. In fact, most of the areas are MSC certified and bear the blue MSC ecolabel which demonstrates they come from a well-managed, environmentally sustainable source.

Total lobster landings in 2014 were 84,339 Metric Tons (185.9 million pounds) valued at $853.8 million at the wharf. The total value of Canadian lobster exported in 2014 was $1.525 Billion.

The lobster fishery is carefully structured and managed to bring the highest quality lobster to market year-round. The region’s waters are divided into areas (LFAs), each with its own season, varying in length from eight weeks to six months. Typically, lobster season in Atlantic Canada peaks in the spring and late fall. But at least one district is always open, so there is a secure year-round supply of top quality lobster.

Conservation measures are tailored to meet the unique needs of each lobster fishery making the inshore lobster fishery managed by “input control” or “effort control”. This means that a limit is placed on fishing effort. Commonly used effort measures include limits to the number of licenses, trap limits, length of fishing seasons, number of fishing days, total allowable catch quotas (in the offshore lobster fishing area), lobster size restrictions, and more. DFO works closely with the lobster fishing industry to develop and update management measures within each Lobster Fishing Area.

The offshore lobster fishery in area 41 has many of the same conservation measures in place as well as an annual limit on the number of lobsters that may be caught thus managed by “Quota control” or “total allowable catch”. The current total allowable catch for this fishery is 720 tonnes and has remained unchanged since 1989.

The LFA27 Picture:

The LFA27 encompasses all ports in Cape Breton and Victoria Counties — from Bay St. Lawrence to Gabarus. There are just over 500 licensed lobster harvesters.

Total Lobster landings for the LFA in 2014 were 3,186 Metric tons (just over 7 million pounds) which accounts for just under 4% of Canadian lobster landed.

Conservation measures for LFA27:

  • Fishing season: Mid-May to Mid-July (most ports don’t fish Sundays)
  • Maximum trap number: 275 (some ports voluntarily fish 250)
  • Minimum Legal Size: 82.5mm carapace length (measure from the eyestalk to where it meets the tail)

The minimum legal size has increased since 1997 as voted on by harvesters in the area and accepted by DFO. Originally, fishermen divided their catch into canners (< 81mm) and markets (min. 81mm). Prompted by a recommendation by the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (FRCC), and a study on lobster tagging in 1997 that indicated that lobster remain in the same area, LFA27 harvesters voted to increase the minimum legal size. This resulted in an increase in egg production as it allowed more lobster to reproduce before being caught. According to DFO science, 50% of lobster in LFA27 mature at a carapace size of 71.5 to 75.8mm, and, at a minimum size of 82.5mm, lobster in this area have a good chance of reproducing at least once before they are caught. Not all areas can boast of such reproductive success.

According to John Tremblay, DFO Science:

“LFA27 has implemented the most significant conservation measures by far of all the LFAs in the Maritime region” (Cape Breton Star, Jan 22, 2015)

For more information also see: Sustainability 


Atlantic Lobster Food Service Guide