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Mail-in vote on fishing curfew coming for Prince County lobster fishermen

Lobster fisherman Gerald Arsenault, left, chats with Prince County fishermen’s Association president Lee Knox and executive member Michel Myers following the association’s special meeting Wednesday. The fishermen met to consider a response to the Maritime Fishermen’s Union’s proposal for a night fishing curfew. The PCFA will put the question on a mail-in ballot.
Lobster fisherman Gerald Arsenault, left, chats with Prince County fishermen’s Association president Lee Knox and board member Michel Myers following the association’s special meeting Wednesday. The fishermen met to consider a response to the Maritime Fishermen’s Union’s proposal for a night fishing curfew. The PCFA will put the question on a mail-in ballot. - Eric McCarthy

Night fishing curfew being debated for LFA 25

O’LEARY, P.E.I. - The Prince County Fishermen’s Association will be polling its members on whether they want to be allowed to fish for lobster in Lobster Fishing Area 25 at any hours their season is open, or to have daily fishing trips restricted to between the hours of 4 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Members were prepared to vote on the question during a meeting Wednesday evening at the O’Leary Legion, but association president Lee Knox agreed with a fisherman’s suggestion that the meeting was not duly advertised to allow for a vote to take place.

Instead, the question will be put on a ballot and mailed to members next week.

The result won’t be known in time for a meeting the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is holding with the PCFA and the MFU Dec. 5 in Moncton, but Knox suggested that meeting can be rescheduled. He suggested, though, it is important that the PCFA present a position, reminding members that just standing firm on no carapace increase did not work out when the MFU was demanding increases.

Wednesday’s special meeting was borne out of a position taken by the MFU to request DFO to ban night fishing.

Knox said the MFU proposal would mean lobster trips could not start before 4 a.m. and boats would have to be back in port by 9 p.m. He told members he was hoping they’d agree to restrict fishing to those hours but to allow additional sailing time, but he said an MFU official informed him they were not budging on their proposal.

“It’s not what we wanted. We agreed before, we would work with it as long as (the fishing curfew) was from 9 pm to 4 in the morning, but there was no time for when we had to leave the harbour,” Knox said.

Stephen Ramsay asked what happened to the 9 p.m. cutoff that used to be in place.

“They felt, as DFO, it was something they couldn’t enforce and they dropped it,” Knox said.

Knox noted a curfew is now enforced in LFA 23.

He suggested the 4 a.m. start is more problematic than the 9 p.m. shutoff. “For guys who have to travel two hours, it’s going to be 6 o’clock before they fish their gear.”

Fishermen from both sides of Northumberland Strait share the LFA 25 lobster grounds.

“(The MFU) is bringing it up because they said there’s too much night fishing going on. They’re losing buoys and they’re getting rope cut and they figure it is because night fishing is going on,” Knox said in describing the MFU position.

Some fishermen at the meeting suggested they are forced to fish harder because of the carapace size discrepancy around P.E.I.

Mark MacRae proposed, and subsequently withdrew, a third option, to remove a line and allow boats from the north that want to do so, to tie up in Borden and Summerside, thus cutting down on sailing time.

“That’s the elephant in the room, but nobody wants to talk about it,” said Jim Cooke.

“We can talk time limit. You will have half the room happy and the other half not. There’s a reason. Nobody wants to run day and night to make a living, if they didn’t have to,” he continued.

He asked Knox whether he thought the MFU would support the PCFA in pressing for a uniform size measure for all of P.E.I. if the association agrees to fishing hours.

Knox said he didn’t think that would be a problem.

“Where’s the wall? Where do we go when we all get to Victoria and were fishing 24 hours a day,” Cooke asked. “What issue will we be fighting then? We will be fighting the issue we should be fighting now.”

“Can you imagine: four mil in the difference, and we argue about the time fellows are putting on the water.”


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