Bycatch is all of the species that are caught accidently. These individuals can be alive or dead and could be retained or discarded but in the lobster fishery if they aren’t a lobster, they are Bycatch. The amount of bycaught species in a fishery has a lot to do with how sustainable that fishery is. When the CBFHA conducts its At-Sea Sampling program we make sure to record all of the bycatch to keep track of our footprint.
Since the begging of our program the bycatch information gets sent back to DFO. The CBFHA has been fighting for our data to be accepted to accurately reflect the lobster fishery in LFA27. In 2019, DFO agreed that the low levels of bycatch in LFA27 was not an error in sampling method, but a testament to the sustainability of our lobster industry.
Table 1. A comparison from 2015 demonstrating differences between LFA27 by-catch rates and those from the Gulf region.
New regulations have DFO enforcing by-catch monitoring (through observer companies or by associations approved by DFO) in LFAs 33 and 34. Lobster Harvesters in those areas have 2 options to comply with new regulations:
- Pay and join an organization which is hiring technicians to conduct at-sea monitoring, or
- Hail out daily and pay for and take aboard an Observer fishing when called on.
What will happen in LFA27?
According to DFO this new policy is not likely to take effect in 2019 but is more likely in 2020. Therefore CBFHA has submitted a proposal to DFO to continue our at-sea monitoring program that we have done since 2011, to cover our membership. The proposal has been received and verbally as of winter 2019.
We continue to be involved and active at every meeting of DFO’s Bycatch Working Group which discusses how this will be implemented in the Maritime Region. We are formally protesting against enforced by-catch monitoring in LFA27 due to ongoing voluntarily participation which should suffice. We are In discussions with DFO through the Bycatch Working Group and have sent a proposal to cover CBFHA membership, should DFO enforce Bycatch Monitoring in LFA27.
At-Sea Monitoring Program with Cape Breton Fish Harvesters Association
- CBFHA hires 4 students each year to go out on fishing boats (volunteers only) and sample all lobster and bycatch from as many traps as possible without slowing down the commercial fishing day.
- CBFHA then enters to the data from each trip in a DFO database which DFO uses for stock assessment
- CBFHA supplies each volunteer with a summary of their daily catch.
- The data is used locally to:
- Monitor the use and retention of Cunner (Perch) from our lobster traps and provide DFO with the results (in the hope of making the 3-year pilot permanent).
- Monitor the lobster fishery in the area of the Emera Power Cable (in Point Aconi) and evaluate the effect of the power cable on the fishery.
- Monitor the lobster fishery in the Donkin area to evaluate the effect of Kameron Coal activities on the fishery.
- Ensure that DFO is using OUR data appropriately and that their conclusions are sound.
- For more information, or to put you name down as a volunteer (to take our lovely hard-working students), please call our office at (902) 794-2227.
Figure 1. Analysis of all species landed as by-catch in the lobster fishery in LFA27 from May 15-July 15, 2018. Numbers are representative of the 78679 lobsters that were sampled by our technicians over the course of the lobster fishing season and do not represent the entirety of LFA27, only those traps that were sampled by CBFHA.