At-sea data collection in the southwestern Nova Scotia lobster fishery will be continuing next season, but gone will be the hail-out requirement that was part of the program delivery last season.
“The decision to remove the hail-out requirement as part of at-sea data collection for LFAs 33, 34 and 35 for the 2019-2020 fishing season was made based on feedback from harvesters and at-sea observer companies, and in consultation with First Nations,” said the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in an email.
“Removing the requirement to hail-out means that all commercial harvesters will be subject to the same licence conditions for at-sea data collection. This will bring more clarity and consistency to the at-sea data collection program for the inshore lobster fishery.”
At-sea data collection for the 2019-2020 season was discussed at both the LFA 33 and 34 advisory committee meetings in late June. Committee members were briefed about the decision to remove the hail-out requirement and reminded that all licence holders will need to register with either an at-sea observer company or the Southwest Lobster Science Society for the 2019-2020 fishing season, DFO explained.
The at-sea data collection program was implemented in the three LFAs last season as a way to determine the occurrence of bycatch in the lobster fishery.
To accommodate the requirement, the Southwest Lobster Science Society was formed by five industry associations in southwestern Nova Scotia to conduct at-sea data collection for LFAs 33, 34 and 35 for members. The Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association, Brazil Rock 33/34, the Coldwater Lobster Association, the Maritimes Fishermen’s Union (MFU) and the Scotia Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association piloted the project. Funding to get the project off the ground was received from the federal government’s Fisheries Innovation Fund.
DFO says, overall, the first year of data collection was successful.
“The department was able to collect at-sea data from our target of one per cent of all fishing trips for LFAs 33, 34 and 35 for the 2018-2019 season. There were some challenges experienced, but that is to be expected in the first year of a new program.”
Based on feedback from advisory committee members, DFO will be reaching out to harvesters directly to inform them about the decision to remove the hail-out requirement and the need to register with either an at-sea observer company or the Southwest Lobster Science Society before next season.
DFO says the at-sea data collection program “will not be extended beyond LFAs 33, 34 and 35 for the 2019-2020 fishing season to allow another year for data collection and to provide adequate time to test the new approach with the at-sea observer companies. The decision on whether or not to extend the program to other LFAs will be made at a later date.”