Marking a first for Nova Scotia, a trial commercial diver-caught scallop fishery has been approved by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and is set to begin on July 16, 2016.
The Ecology Action Centre (EAC) has been working regularly with DFO and fishing industry partners in Nova Scotia over the past four years to help make this trial fishery a reality.
“We were seeing local restaurants selling diver-caught scallops, but they were sourcing them from Mexico. We realized that there was an incredible opportunity to have this product harvested in Nova Scotia, and have it available here and for export, as part of meeting the growing demand for traceable and sustainably harvested seafood.” says Justin Cantafio, Sustainable Fisheries Campaigner with the EAC.
The trial fishery will take place in St. Mary’s Bay, and offers a new opportunity for commercial divers to extend their fishing season using a low-impact and selective fishing method to catch scallops outside of their commercial urchin diving season. This fishery will also contribute to sustainable livelihoods and economic development in the Digby region.
“In Seachoice’s retail and supplier partnerships across Canada, we see a growing demand for sustainable seafood. Nova Scotia has an excellent opportunity to meet that increasing demand through smaller scale, but high value fisheries like these.” says Colleen Turlo, the EAC’s representative to SeaChoice, Canada’s sustainable seafood program.
“This type of initiative is an excellent way of increasing the value of a fishery resource, without increasing the actual amount harvested.” says Cantafio. “We’ve been working with various value chain members, from processors to retailers, to ensure that there is a demand for this product, and the demand for diver-caught scallops has been so high that there are commitments to buying catches for several years, in advance.”
The pilot project will harvest 2.5 tonnes — approximately 5,500 pounds — with the season closing at the end of September. The quota to be used is from the existing allocation for the fishery, and will be fished by a local team of commercial diver fishermen. The concept for the fishery was also presented to the Inshore Scallop Advisory Committee, before final approval by DFO.