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P.E.I. fishermen question enforcement of protection measures if no right whales are being spotted

Ron Belliveau, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Chief of enforcement, addresses annual meeting of Prince County Fishermen’s Association.
Ron Belliveau, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Chief of enforcement, addresses annual meeting of Prince County Fishermen’s Association on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, in O'Leary. - Eric McCarthy

DFO also tells attendees at Prince County Fishermen’s Association annual meeting that prohibition of "doubtful boxes" will be enforced

O’LEARY, P.E.I. - There were no North Atlantic right whales spotted in Lobster Fishing Area 25 last year and no reports of the whales venturing into water depths less than 49 meters, members of the Prince County Fishermen’s Association learned Tuesday.

Ron Belliveau, chief of enforcement with Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Moncton, discussed the data with fishermen attending the Prince County Fishermen’s Association annual meeting Tuesday, Jan. 22 in O’Leary. PCFA members fish in LFA 25 waters.

Belliveau said DFO is reviewing all of the right whale data collected in preparing plans for protection of the endangered species in 2019.

PCFA president Lee Knox told fishermen they will likely be required to have coloured strips of marker rope weaved into their buoy line between the primary buoy and their trap. If so, the PCFA wants a different marker colour for each Lobster Fishing Area.

Paul Gallant questioned why such measures are being imposed on fishermen without any evidence that the whales are in their fishing area.

On another matter, Belliveau confirmed officers have been instructed to enforce the condition of license that prohibits the use of "doubtful boxes" for measuring lobsters.

“Less handling is better for the lobster,” he said. “I’ve advised them that the law is clear and the court decisions are clear, that lobsters need to be measured forthwith as they come out of the trap.

"I told my fishery officers, the three chiefs, to enforce that the lobsters be measured forthwith.”

Belliveau was also asked about reports that seiners were landing small mackerel last year. That followed an earlier report during the meeting about the mackerel fishery being in trouble and special measures being put in place to protect the stocks.

“How come we never hear tell of a seiner being charged?” Trevor Barlow asked.

Belliveau said he was not aware of any sampling showing a significant amount of undersized fish being landed.

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