How sustainable is our fishery?

There are many ways to assess sustainability of a fishery: some very sophisticated methodologies using complex data programs and fancy equipment and some much simpler but easier to understand methods. Small scale coastal fish harvesters who are “in touch” with their environment assess sustainability by their daily catch, and by the abundance of young lobster and the berried females they find in their traps. They also understand how each of these is affected by wind direction, storms, temperature and other factors.

In a similar way, our lobster technicians (summer university students) measure and note observations on each lobster that is found in a trap. For the entire 2015 lobster season, Emilie, Teresa and Kimberly (see picture below) go out with our volunteer lobster harvesters for the day, sampling almost all, if not all, of the 275 lobster traps they haul each day.

First at sea 2015

Looking happy after their first day at sea — Emilie and Teresa. Right is 3rd year returning tech Kimberly.

The sex, carapace length, and shell hardness of all lobsters caught is recorded, as well as the egg stage (if the lobster is berried). Observations are also made on the quality (if damaged or missing a claw). All other animals trapped are also measured and recorded to assess the effect of our fishery on other species (a requirement of our MSC label).

Since none of the berried and undersized lobsters make it to the wharf, at sea sampling allows for a more complete picture of the resource.  After the season, all the data are entered into a database and shared with Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans, University researchers and students. This is the LFA27 Management Board’s 5th year of sampling and the data have been analyzed and used to discuss a size increase, lobster quality and handling, and escape hatches.

Lobster harvesters in LFA27 are committed to the long term sustainability of the resource and our communities and to landing a high quality product!