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UPDATED: Fishermen voice concerns about lobster carapace size increases

Lee Knox, speaks to a crowd of nearly 70 lobster fishermen at a meeting held at the O'Leary Legion.
Lee Knox, speaks to a crowd of nearly 70 lobster fishermen at a meeting held at the O'Leary Legion.

Island lobster fishermen in Lobster Fishing Area (LFA) 25 again voiced their desire for a uniform carapace measure.

“We can talk about this until the cows come home, but there is nothing we can do,” one man said at the meeting held at the O'Leary Legion on April 12.

Lee Knox, president of the Prince County Fishermen’s Association, mentioned that members of LFA 25 were hoping other LFAs in P.E.I. would join them voluntarily with the carapace size increases.

“We hoped the rest of the group would come along with us this spring, but it doesn’t look  like they will.”

Many of those at the meeting still remember the carapace size increases that happened in the 90s.

“It’s still fresh in some minds. And for those in LFA 25 their biggest concern is that it’s moving too fast. They don’t want to go down that road again.”

In January, fall lobster fishermen voiced their desire for a uniform carapace measure for the Island, and the increases slowed down.

In 2016, then Federal Fisheries minister Hunter Tootoo, announced a one-millimetre (mm) increase in minimum legal length for LFA 25, as well as two mm increases in 2017 and 2018.

“It’d be one thing if we had the increase and then a grace year in between so we have time to see what the increase will do to the industry, but that’s not what’s going to happen,” said Knox.

Instead the increases will continue as planned.

However, there are no scheduled changes to take place in LFAs 24 and 26A. Leaving fall fishermen unable to land anything smaller than 77 mm by 2018 while spring fishermen will land 72 mm.

Wednesday’s meeting also featured guest speakers who were available to answer questions from attendees and well as to present any new information they had gathered during the increase process.

Robert MacMillan of the provincial Department of Agriculture and Fisheries said there are three known things that will happen with a carapace size increase.

“We know we’ll bring in larger lobsters, it’s an issue of abundance not size and the canner to market ratio will change.

 “You’re landings aren’t a function of carapace size they’re a function of abundance. The more lobsters you have, the greater the landings.”

Knox added, “The science is there and we should be able to benefit from the changes, but when there is a two mm increase each year you can’t predict what it will do to the fishery. It’s never been done in an LFA.

For now, Knox and other members of the PEIFA are hoping to meeting with current Federal Fisheries Minister Dominic Leblanc or members from his office to urge them to slow down the process.

“We’ve had some difficulty achieving slowing down the process, but we’re hoping to keep the conversation going with the minister and department of fisheries,” said Knox.

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