Government Committee Releases Report on Climate Change Impacts to Lobster and Snow Crab

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans recently released a report related to its study of the migration of lobster and snow crab in Atlantic Canada and the impact of climate change on carapace size.

The report entitled In Hot Water — Lobster and Snow Crab in Eastern Canada, included 10 recommendations, which focused on the need for more research (climate and economic impacts in particular), as well as the need to collaborate with harvesters (i.e. to advance adaptation options and identify potential lobster nurseries), academics and American partners to better understand the implications of changing ocean conditions on these species.

In the report, the Committee recognized the important socio-economic importance of the lobster and snow crab fisheries to Eastern Canada’s coastal communities.

It also acknowledged that changes in the environment are happening at an unprecedented pace and collectively, policy makers must act now to better understand the changes that have happened and will continue to happen. This is critical for the health of the stock and the economic viability of the fishery and the communities it supports, while also encouraging the continued use of conservation measures, such as minimum legal carapace sizes for lobster and the protection of critical nursery grounds.

Regarding carapace sizes, the Committee called for consultation and partnerships with fish harvesters to ensure that lobster and snow crab fisheries continue to be sustainable — both environmentally and economically — for generations to come.

The Committee quoted Coldwater Lobster Association President Bernie Berry: “Changes in the environment are happening at an unprecedented pace, and collectively, we must act now to better understand the changes that have happened and will continue to happen, for the health of the stock and the economic viability of the fishery and the communities it supports.”

The list of recommendations contained in the study were:

Recommendation 1: That Fisheries and Oceans Canada monitor and measure the current and potential future economic impacts on local harbours and economies resulting from changes in population distribution of lobster and snow crab stocks.

Recommendation 2: That Fisheries and Oceans Canada increase its consultation with the fishing industry to improve the collection of data and understanding of scientific information relevant to the health of lobster and snow crab stocks.

Recommendation 3: That Fisheries and Oceans Canada, in partnership with the fishing industry, increase its funding for scientific research on the impact of climate change on the biomass and distribution of lobster and snow crab.

Recommendation 4: That Fisheries and Oceans Canada deepen its research and consideration of climate impacts on the fishery and put forward operational adaptation options for Canada’s commercial fisheries.

Recommendation 5: That Fisheries and Oceans Canada undertake analysis of the socio-economic implications of climate change on Canada’s fish resources and of adaptation scenarios for the industry.

Recommendation 6: That Fisheries and Oceans Canada monitor and measure any changes in the stock levels of groundfish and other species that commonly prey on lobster and lobster larvae for potential impacts and develop management plans to address changes in stock levels.

Recommendation 7: That Fisheries and Oceans Canada, in partnership with fishing organizations, conduct a detailed study to gain knowledge on the rock crab population and the importance of the rock crab in the lobster’s diet, critical to the growth and carrying capacity of lobster stocks.

Recommendation 8: That Fisheries and Oceans Canada consider market impacts, both positive and negative, as well as effects on biomass when making decisions regarding changes to minimum legal lobster carapace size regulations.

Recommendation 9: That Fisheries and Oceans Canada, in collaboration with the fishing industry, review lobster nursery grounds, such as Browns Bank, and identify other areas that could be classified as potential lobster nurseries to help the biomass in future years if the stock comes under pressure from overfishing or environmental changes.

Recommendation 10: That Fisheries and Oceans Canada conduct a study on the use of the precautionary approach and reference points to determine future management of fish stocks, and the economic and environmental impact of this approach as it relates to the lobster and snow crab fisheries.

Now that the report has been tabled, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans has requested that the government table a comprehensive response to its findings.

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