O’LEARY -- Members of the Prince County Fishermen’s Association signaled Wednesday night they don’t want to re-consider a change to the minimum carapace size for fall lobsters.
The PCFA strongly resisted a push last year from the Maritime Fishermen’s Union to have the minimum carapace measure increased to 77 mm by 2015. There was a one mm increase in minimum carapace size last year, moving it to 72 mm, and that is where the P.E.I. fishermen insisted it should remain.
So, when the MFU, representing fall fishermen from New Brunswick who share the same fishing grounds with P.E.I. fishermen in Lobster Fishing Area 25, put in a new pitch for a more gradual increase – a millimeter this year and another millimeter in 2016 - the board of directors of the PCFA was compelled to bring it to its membership.
Their response during Wednesday’s meeting at O’Leary Legion was 118 fishermen against further increases and 15 in favour of increasing the carapace size.
Carapace increase was one of four proposals members were expected to vote on during the special meeting. The other three proposals were on policy changes.
Fishers voted 70 to 62 in favour of removing a policy which currently requires fishermen to sit out a year once they sell a license before buying back into the fishery, and they were 76-56 in favour of allowing fall fishermen to also hold a spring lobster license. They voted 69 to 64 against stacking of licenses within a fishing port. That would have allowed one fisherman to buy a second licence from his port and fish his 240 traps and 200 from the second gear. Another scenario would allow two fishermen to buy out a third fisherman and each one take 100 traps. Both scenarios would see 40 traps retired for rationalization.
PCFA president Lee Knox admitted he was surprised the stacking proposal did not go ahead, especially considering fishermen were in favour of combining spring and fall gears.
Neither policy change proposal that won favour with the members is a done deal. Knox said his board will put the request for the removal of the one-year wait policy into the Department of Fisheries and Oceans hands to decide.
As for the proposal to allow fishermen to hold fall and spring lobster licenses, he said the PCFA will have to make a pitch to the associations representing P.E.I. spring fishermen in LFAs 24 and 26A.He suggested those associations would also have to be in favour of combining spring and fall licenses.
“If they’re not agreeable to allowing a fall fisherman to go in and buy a spring license, then I’m sure we can’t go ahead and allow a spring to come in and buy a fall if it’s not vice versa,” Knox said.
Members of the PCFA had come up with the policy change proposals during an April 3 meeting in O’Leary but the vote on the proposals was delayed until Wednesday to allow time for the association to notify members. Of the 217 association members, 133 attended the meeting. All four proposals were on one ballot and fishermen were asked to vote yes or no on each item.