The Government of Canada is using an historic increase in snow crab biomass in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence to increase Indigenous access to this fishery during the 2017 season.
Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, announced April 12 that the management decision for Crab Fishing Areas (CFA) 12, 12E, 12F, and 19. The decision includes a one-time setting aside of up to 1,100 tonnes from CFAs 12 and 19 for Indigenous groups in the area to increase Indigenous access to the fishery.
The Total Allowable Catch (TAC) amount is the highest in Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence (SGSL) history because of a rare occurrence with the species which resulted in a significant increase of the snow crab biomass this year. The biomass is expected to return to normal in the following years.
The Government of Canada is using this rare opportunity to provide Indigenous communities in the area with increased access to the fishery. This decision demonstrates the Government’s commitment to reconciliation and strengthening the nation-to-nation relationship with Canada’s Indigenous peoples. Providing additional access to the fishery in 2017 will provide economic benefits to Indigenous groups in the area and the means to build capacity and secure more permanent access in coming years as traditional fishermen retire from the industry.
Current harvesters will also see significant benefits during this particularly lucrative year, including a historic increase in quota and forecasted market value.
DFO met with industry and Indigenous groups during the SGSL Snow Crab Advisory Committee meeting on February 28, 2017 and March 1, 2017. Discussions included establishing the 2017 TAC using the harvest decision rules, a renewed collaborative agreement to conduct the snow crab trawl survey, and other key management measures.
The TAC for Crab Fishing Areas (CFA) 12, 12E, 12F, and 19 has been set at 43,822 tonnes (t) for 2017, in line with DFO’s Precautionary Approach and harvest decision rules developed in collaboration with industry and Indigenous groups. In 2016, the TAC for these areas was set at 21,758.96 tonnes.
The 2017 TAC constitutes the highest in history in the Southern Gulf, however science has indicated the biomass levels will return to normal for the 2018 fishery.
The large increase in the TAC is a result of a high number of crab that did not moult in 2015, resulting in a decreased TAC in 2016. Subsequently, the 2015 cohort moulted in 2016 and is responsible for the current increase in biomass of commercial size snow crab for 2017.