Lois Ann Dort

Local fishers concerned about changes to gear marking requirements

Jan 22nd, 2020  •   Guysborough Journal  •  News

CANSO – If you have never hauled a lobster pot, you probably have no idea how much rope is required to secure a pot on the ocean floor to a surface buoy. But you can probably guess that making changes to the rope on all non-tended fixed gear for fisheries in Eastern Canada would be a massive undertaking. But local fishers are not sure that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, who released a notice to fishers for just such an enterprise on Dec. 20, 2019, are fully aware of the impact such a requirement will have on the industry. 

In a notice released online last month, DFO stated, “The gear marking requirements will consist of interlacing different strands of colored twine within existing rope.” The notice goes on to outline which colours of twine would be used to denote region, species and fishing area. 

The notice states that the purpose of the new requirements are, “part of the Government of Canada’s continuing efforts to improve tracking of gear, address ghost gear and further identify management measures threats to marine mammals, in particular North Atlantic Right Whales.”

An announcement was made in February 2019 that such changes in gear marking were forthcoming and would be mandatory. But the December 2019 notice fails to provide fishers with all the necessary information to comply with the new regulations using language such as ‘at a minimum’ and ‘it could be’ – giving less than specific directions on what was required and when. 

Ginny Boudreau, manager of the Guysborough County Inshore Fishermen’s Association in Canso, spoke with The Journal about the impending changes last Wednesday. 

“We need to know where they want these markings. First we were told top, middle and bottom. Then we were told every 15 fathoms and then we were told if we fish in under 30 fathoms of water, it’s only top and bottom,” said Boudreau, adding that without the proper information fishers would not be able to ready their gear as mandated for the 2020 fishing season. 

Many local fisheries will be affected, said Boudreau, including snow crab, shrimp, mackeral and halibut. The cost and time of changing the ropes is great. 

“It’s a huge tax on the Canadian fishery. It is going to cost us a lot,” she said. 

Aside from the cost there is also the problem of acquiring the twine required. “First and foremost, we have to figure out what they want us to do and then track down the supply of this coloured twine that they defined for our area without discussing it with us.”

The new regulations have been promulgated in part to keep in step with U.S market demands. The notice of the new requirement states: “At a minimum, gear marking will be required at the top, middle and bottom of the vertical line (aligned with minimum requirements in the US).” 

The United States Marine Mammal Protection Act dictates that seafood imports must be caught under the same rules required in the U.S. Failing to comply with these rules could result in a ban of Canadian seafood products, which as one of the largest markets in the world, would have a significant impact on one of the biggest export industries in Nova Scotia. 

Boudreau said of this concern, “We only have Ottawa’s word that it would be beneficial because as far as markets, especially for lobster industry…we have as much lobster coming in from U.S. as what we have going to the U.S. So, they’re going to shut the border down to lobster? So guess what — if our lobster can’t go there, do you think we’re going to take their lobster? We are their only route to China right now for their industry.”

The real push for the new requirements, said Boudreau, is environmental. “This is all environmentally driven and the industry wouldn’t mind that if this was something that was going to prevent an entanglement or help to protect the whales. All this is, is a blame game, so they have someone to blame it on if an entanglement happens. We don’t even have right whales here in our fishing area so why do we have to do anything? We have an acoustic device in Chedabucto Bay for over a year — it hasn’t picked up one right whale – so what are we risking? Marking gear in this fishing area will not save a whale in the Bay of Fundy or from a ship strike.”

Boudreau said that the local industry’s hesitancy to adopt these new measures could be misconstrued. “It makes us look like we don’t want to do anything to protect whales and that is not true.” They want to do something that will make a difference, she said, such as move forward with measures to protect habitat and food supply and track migratory movements. 

Trent Luddington, a local fisherman in New Harbour, Guysborough County wrote to The Journal, in an online interview, concerning the gear changes, “I don’t think anyone is on board with this. Not sure what it is supposed to prove. They left it a little last minute, it will not cost that much providing we can get the right colours of twine. But it will take hundreds of hours to get it all spliced in. There have never been any problems with right whales here. And something that they didn’t think about is the coloured twine that l and many other fishermen already have laid in our rope for personal identification, line lengths etc.” 

The Journal requested an interview with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans but as of the time of publication, no one was available for comment. 

The Notices to Fish Harvesters on these requirements are available on DFO’s website:

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