In anticipation of opening day

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I believe the Department of Fisheries and Oceans committed a blunder by allowing North Side lobster fishers to fish 300 traps this year instead of going with the 290 that had been agreed to by fishers and the department.

Instead of having approximately 6,300 fewer traps in the water – which is the equivalent of 21 fewer boats on the water – the same amount of effort will continue to be applied.

I cannot recall any fishers starving when the trap limit went from 400 to 300, so surely we could handle a 10-trap reduction. Keeping the status quo will allow buyers to continue to use one of their favourite excuses – over-supply – to offer lower prices to the fishers.

Would these 10 trap tags have been returned to the fishers had an election not been underway?

My cousin once told me that “a greedy person makes a good fisherman.” The mentality seems to be take what you can today, don’t worry about tomorrow.

We should take a lesson from the Magdalen Islands lobster fishery that reduced the size of their traps, because if we do get a reduction in the total number of traps, you can be sure the size of the traps will continue to increase, thus defeating the intention.

Another point is the “window measure” which is a regulation that states all female lobster between certain sizes must be returned to the water. If the female is over that size then she can be kept and sold. If we were smart, we would put all lobster (male and female) over that size back in the water. They will do us more good in the water than they will in a can.

My last point is the season opening time. Most North Side harbours have poor navigational entrances and it will be difficult to get them all dredged in time for the April 30 opening. I suggest the Department of Fisheries should look at delaying the start until 7 a.m. instead of 6 a.m.

In many harbours, fishers leave the wharf around 5 a.m. in order to wait in open water. A move of one hour might not seem like much, but it would mean the difference between leaving in the dark (especially on an overcast or rainy day) or daylight.

The hazards of setting day, manoeuvring a fully loaded boat over dangerous shoals in the dark, in sometimes mediocre weather, should not be underestimated.

With the increasing regulations being imposed upon fishers by Transport Canada, I am surprised the topic has rarely ever been discussed.

Imagine, if there were a serious mishap on setting day, the mountain of new regulations we would be subject to. Something to think about.

Chris Wall

New Annan

Organizations: Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Transport Canada

Geographic location: North Side, Magdalen Islands

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