The Cape Breton Fish Harvesters Association has been collecting at-sea data since 2011. Initially, we were funded through Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), but now funding comes from fish harvester’s dues and other small funds for technicians. The lobster harvesters in LFA27 felt that not enough research was conducted on lobster and wanted to support CBFHA to collect independent data.
To collect this data, lobster license holders volunteer to take technicians on board their vessels for a day of fishing and, in many cases, slow their normal working speed so that the data can be collected. The technicians, are often local students studying biology, marine biology and environmental management. They are hired to sample on a different vessel every day of the lobster season. From mid-May to mid-July, the students meet fisherman at the wharves and sample as many traps as they can without compromising the data.
While our technicians record a wide variety of data, our 2 primary focuses of the At-Sea Sampling program is monitoring the health of the lobster stock, and recording by-catch as it pertains to the lobster fishing industry.
Lobster information is recorded by the student handling the lobster and determining the size to make sure the lobsters are sorted appropriately. Too small lobsters are recorded and carefully put back to sea. Markets are lobsters that are equal or greater than 82.5 mm in carapace length. The lobster is measured from the eye socket to the end of the first part of the shell (the carapace). These markets are checked for health, making sure they don’t have shell disease or any epiphytic growth. The number of claws are recorded and marked down with an indication if they are in the process of re-growing any appendages. Technicians make note of the sex, male or female, and most importantly, we check if the lobster is egg baring. Female lobsters in the process of spawning are not allowed to be retained. Technicians carefully measure the lobster, record the clutch stage (how far along she is) and the percent cover of eggs along the tail. Then she is carefully returned to sea.