Decision Will Result in Loss of $6.5 Million for 19 Cape Breton Communities

DFO has cut snow crab quotas by 54 per cent as the northeastern Nova Scotia snow crab season opens this year.

Ever since the fishery was restructured 11 years ago by the fisheries minister, the North-ENS (Eastern Nova Scotia) snow crab fishers have received smaller quotas than were committed in the recommendations of the Independent Panel on Access and Allocation.

The cut this season means that the 78 licensed snow crab boats will receive $2.5-million less for snow crab they land to the wharf. On top of this, fish processing plants like Victoria Co-op in New Haven and others in Cape Breton, will lose out on processing and selling this crab to the market. That will be more than another $4-million lost to the processing sector.

Greg Organ, President of the North-ENS Snow Crab Association is disappointed and upset that DFO has cut quotas. “In the 44 years we have been in the snow crab fishery we have only had one season with a smaller quota than this one and it is just not fair to the 19 harbour communities we fish from.”

In 2005 the fisheries minister restructured our fishery based on the recommendations of an Independent Panel on Access and Allocation, said Brian Timmons, VP of the Association and “we have been disadvantaged ever since.”

“According to the recommendations,” Timmons said, “the minister was to create fairness and equity. Well the instant the restructuring took place we suffered a loss. I can’t see that there is any fairness or equity in that.”

Michael Buffet, Association board member, said “Monday was our opening day and our haul rates are virtually identical to our best years. The amount of crab per trap hauled the first day was well over 200 pounds and some over 350 pounds. Six to eight of the boats caught their entire quota in one day. Given that we have a two-month season is seems crazy that we have such a small quota.”

According to Osborne Burke, General Manager of Victoria Co-op Fisheries, “the quota cut means that we will have at least one week less processing time for our plant workers. By contrast, if the quota was what the Panel’s report recommended to the minister we would have five times that amount of snow crab. The amount of income loss to our workers and the consequent multiplier effect throughout our community will hurt everyone this year.”

“We are looking to our local MPs to help us,” said Lloyd MacInnis, Association board member, “by supporting our position that the Fisheries Minister should implement the intent of the recommendations made by the Independent Panel and make our quota based on the share we had when the fishery was restructured. That would mean 15 per cent of the Eastern Nova Scotia snow crab and not the three per cent we are fishing this year. Here is what the Independent Panel recommended:

Access for all current participants in the ENS crab fishery should be provided on a permanent basis through fixed percentage shares of the TAC. The threshold approach should be terminated because it undermines the stability and orderly management of the fishery.”
MacInnis added, “this has never happened.”

“According to DFO scientists”, says Greg Organ, it is an established fact that the Eastern Nova Scotia snow crab biomass is a single biological unit so in other words we all fish the same resource, from Bay St. Lawrence in Cape Breton to Halifax. Add to this, the fact that of the 100 per cent of the crab in the water, quotas are based on harvesting only 20 per cent of the total. Fully 80 per cent of what is available to harvest is left in the water for future use. Additionally, there is typically always additional recruitment behind this amount so it seems illogical to suggest the crab can be fished to a dangerous level. It has been DFO’s custom to divide the entire zone into crab fishing areas by drawing arbitrary lines on the map and restricting fishermen to certain areas where they can drop their traps.

It makes no sense and the Independent Panel acknowledged this by recommending that all stakeholders be permitted to fish the percentage they traditionally caught prior to restructuring by the minister. In so doing the Minister let more than 800 unlicensed fishers into the fishery in 2005 that had little to no access previously. These new entrants now have more quota allocation than we do and we have been in the fishery for more than 30 years. We are seriously disadvantaged by DFO’s approach and we are amongst the first fishers to be in this fishery.

Greg Organ goes on to say “we are only looking for our fair share of the ENS quota and a place to fish it.”

Members of the the North-ENS (Eastern Nova Scotia) snow crab fishers.

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