Fishermen and DFO need to be on the same page on safety

Journal Pioneer staff
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We do realize we’re in the middle of summer, but bear with us: Every winter here on P.E.I. we encounter situations where the school board allows classes to go ahead and then has to deal with complaints from parents who insist the conditions were not safe to have their children on the road, and situations where classes are cancelled and we’re treated to ideal conditions.

Well, the summer version of that just might be setting day for the fall lobster fishery. It opened Friday. Some fishermen expressed disappointment that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans did not err on the side of caution and delay the opening of the season until Monday.

As it turns out many fishermen ended up setting gear Friday in nasty conditions.

The obvious difference here is that the lobster fishery, by and large, involves adults.

It can be argued that, just as parents can choose to keep their children home if they think the weather conditions are unsafe, fishermen can decide to stay in port if they believe the conditions are perilous.

In the lobster fishery though, especially the fall one, staying in port when others are setting gear is just not likely to happen.

In the spring of the year, when the water temperature is cold, lobsters don’t move very quickly so the catches are usually not very plentiful starting out. That certainly was the case this year.

In the fall fishery, however, the lobsters are on the move and it doesn’t take long for them to find and fill the traps. After a few days the catches drop off sharply. So, when one boat goes the others follow. It’s the competitive nature of lobster fishing. A fisherman who errs on the side of caution while others from the port set out would lose out on perhaps a ton of lobster, and he would never make that up over the course of the season.

DFO, however, had little choice but to let the fishermen set on Friday. Even though there were conflicting weather reports, fishermen in several ports, especially in the southern part of the district, felt they could get out safely.  With opening date already set and many fishermen prepared to go, DFO could not very well make a last-minute change.

Fishermen would only have had reason to be upset if DFO’s decision to leave the Friday opening alone had gone against the wishes of the vast majority of fishermen on Thursday’s conference call and it did not. 

Organizations: Department of Fisheries and Oceans

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