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P.E.I. fishermen want federal officials to slow down carapace size increases

A P.E.I. lobster fisherman loads a trap onto his boat in this file photo.
A P.E.I. lobster fisherman loads a trap onto his boat in this file photo.

VICTORIA, P.E.I. - A Victoria fisherman says lobster harvesters were given no alternative but to increase lobster carapace size by five millimetres over three years.

Buster Boulter, a lobster fisherman for 35 years, said the five-millimetre increase will impact fishermen.

“We did a one millimetre increase last year and now they want two more this year and two more the next,” said Boulter.

“We’re trying to slow it down to one and one.”

The province of New Brunswick has been trying to get this increase for the last four years. The decision will affect Lobster Fishing Area (LFA) 25, from Victoria to Tignish.

Some fishermen want the increase and some don’t. Some processors want it and some don’t. But Boulter said they are moving forward with it because New Brunswick wants a bigger lobster.

“We wanted to stay where we were,” he said.

“We had no option. They were just going to make it law.”

Island lobster fishermen in LFA 25, who held a meeting last week in O’Leary, continue to call for a uniform carapace size across P.E.I.

Lee Knox, president of the Prince County Fishermen’s Association, said his members were hoping other lobster fishing areas would voluntarily join them this spring.

“...It doesn’t look like they will,” said Knox, who hopes to meet with federal Fisheries Minister Dominic Leblanc to urge officials to slow down the increases.

Although the decision will take a bit out of his catch, Boulter said it will be good for conservation.

“Many of the smaller lobster never got a chance to spawn because we were catching them. Now there’ll be more lobster in the water and more to spawn. It’s for the best and it will end up helping us.”

Morell-Mermaid MLA Sidney MacEwen, a fishermen himself, says many fishermen think the carapace size should be uniform across the province. He’s concerned this increase may be happening too quickly and he wants to slow the process down.

“Never in history has it increased so much, so fast.”

MacEwen fishes in LFA 24 where the carapace size will stay the same.

“In the past year with the first stage of the carapace increase, the catch increased because there were good weather conditions, but if it’s a bad weather year this year, you’re going to see a quicker reduction in catch,” said MacEwen.

“Science says the stocks will rebound, but not enough to off-set a bad year.”

 

(With files by Millicent McKay/Journal Pioneer)

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