LFA 27 Lobster Science Workshop 2004 Report
Report from Workshop on
Lobster Science in LFA 27
The Workshop on Lobster Science for LFA 27 was held in the auditorium of the Canadian
Coast Guard College in Sydney, N. S., on March 31 to April 1, 2004. The workshop was
sponsored by the three main fishing groups located in LFA 27, The Maritimes Fishermen's
Union Local #6, The North of Smokey Fishermen's Association, and The Eastern Cape
Breton Fishermen's Association, in cooperation with The Department of Fisheries and
The LFA 27 Lobster Advisory Board agreed that a workshop should be conducted to allow
lobster fishermen the opportunity to identify specific science projects which need to be
conducted, and the possible benefits this data would provide to lobster fishermen. Industry
was also asked to discuss possible ways that these projects may be funded and
The workshop was co-chaired by Jeff Brownstein, President of MFU Local #6, and Dr.
John Tremblay, DFO Science.
The representatives of LFA 27 lobster fishermen were asked to invite other fishermen from
their ports to attend the two-day workshop. The first day would consist of listening to a
number of guest speakers and reviewing various presentations. On day two of the
workshop participants were divided into four separate working groups with a
leader/rapporteur identified. The groups would all assemble and discuss the results of the
individual workgroups, and identify any common goals.
Objectives of the workshop:
- To table science needs for the next 5 years.
- To develop approaches for the conduct of science studies in partnership
with industry, First Nations, and other groups.
OVERVIEW OF SCIENCE ISSUES RELEVANT TO LFA 27
PRESENTED BY - JOHN TREMBLAY
John Tremblay identified three areas of concern to the DFO science Branch:
- Lack of Distribution Indicators
- Limited Knowledge of Ecosystem Indicators
- Interest in conducting a Suction / Recruitment Study
Industry asked why the rate of return during tagging studies in the 1990'
's (conducted by
DFO) varied from area to area. John Tremblay answered he was not sure, there may
have been many reasons for the variation such as high natural mortality or possibly lack of
fishermen's participation. Some fishermen questioned the lack of participation and it was
explained that it was a possible cause for variation in the rate of tag return, not that it was
known, but one possible reason to explain the variations.
GENERAL DISCUSSION (end of day)
Some fishermen were concerned that another proposal for a carapace size increase was
considered at this time. Some local fishermen had proposed the increase for financial
reasons, explaining that the number of canner lobsters caught was so minimal that it
would be beneficial to return them to the water and allow them to increase in size for the
next season. The proposal was voted down by the majority of Port Representatives at the
LFA Lobster Advisory Meeting. Fishermen thought it was best to examine the results of
the initial size increase completed in 2002, before entertaining more proposals for another
Some fishermen were also concerned with the apparent migration of lobster licenses from
the Northern regions of LFA 27 to the central and southern regions. The lobster fishery in
the Northern region seems to have improved, possibly because of a decrease in effort (a
lot less traps in the water), while the fishery in the central and southern regions, which had
traditionally been better fishing areas, have not reached the same levels as those in the
LOBSTER LARVAE SAMPLING EXPERIMENT DONE BY
GUYSBOROUGH FISHERMEN'S ASSOCIATION
PRESENTED BY DUNCAN FELIX
Duncan explained the study has a number of sponsors who help fund the experiments.
The experiments were conducted over the last two years (2002 & 2003). The larvae
appeared to stay in relatively the same area, when temperatures are stable. In 2003 an
influx of cold water resulted in low catch rates, even after the water returned to its warmer
The time necessary to conduct the experiment was approximately 4 to 5.5 hours per day
and conducted over a two-week period for each vessel; there were two vessels
participating and sampling for approximately one month in total.
A current flow experiment was also conducted in 2002 using drogues, but was not
continued in 2003 because of budget restraints.
The larvae appear to stay in the water column from 2 to 4 weeks; this time may vary when
colder water is present. The survival rate of larvae diminish when temperatures fall below
12 degrees Celsius, it is not known whether the colder water actually kills the larvae, or if it
slows down the development so much that the larvae is in the water column for an
extended period of time, thus being more vulnerable to predators.
Stage 1 to Stage 4 larvae may take from 3 to 6 weeks to develop, however various stages
of larvae may be present at any given time because lobsters do not all spawn at the same
time, but may spawn over a period of weeks.
A question as to where these larvae originated arose, but the answer was not known as
no detailed larvae drift study has been conducted. The drift study that was not continued in
2003 would have been of great importance had it been able to be conducted over a
number of years; noting any variation in current as well as other factors like ice flow, wind,
storm surges, etc.
The fact that no or very few stage 2 and stage 3s were caught in the net during the
experiment was discussed. It is believed that these stage 2s and 3s may be present
deeper within the water column and therefore subject to a greater degree to current flow. It
was also noted that at varying times the temperature throughout the water column might
differ greatly, causing other stages to seek a suitable temperature range.
Clarification was requested as to why, if it usually requires 6 weeks for stage 1 larvae to
reach stage 4 and settle to the bottom, were stage 4 larvae present throughout the 4-week period. The stage 4 larvae do not remain in the water for a 4 week period, but most likely
the stage 4 larvae observed over the 4 weeks were different larvae produced by females
spawning at different times over a period of several weeks. It was noted it might be
interesting to have the study extended to cover a 5-week period.
The discussion continued on current flow in all of LFA 27, and how it is believed that a
gyre effect is present in Sydney Bight. If this gyre were indeed present, it would then be a
safe assumption that lobsters spawning here are producing eggs that are remaining here
and replenishing our stocks. However some studies of currents dealing with crab suggests
the current flows out of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and continues on in a southerly direction,
this would result in eggs spawned in LFA 27, benefiting LFAs other than 27. However, it
was stated that the study involving snow crabs would differ from those of lobster in a
number ways: snow crab larvae remain in the water column for up to 8 weeks as
compared to 6 weeks for lobster, snow crab spawn at a different time of year than lobster,
the water temperatures are different at that time of year, and lobster larvae tend to be
closer to shore where as snow crab larvae a generally offshore causing a possible
difference in flow direction.
Fishermen present were interested in the v-notching that is done by Guysborough County
fishermen. Each fisherman saves, then releases back to the ocean, 110 pounds of nonegg
bearing female lobsters with a carapace size greater than 110 mm, after they have
been v-notched. Since this has been implemented (4 years), along with other conservation
measures, fishermen have seen a steady increase in their catch. It is believed that
approximately 75% of v-notched females are breeding; also 40 to 50% of the v-notched
females released are recaptured the following year. There is some concern as to the
successful breeding of these large females, as it requires a large male to breed with a
large female. One male lobster could breed with several female lobsters. It was also
stated that a v-notch might be present for approximately 5 years before it disappears
through the molting process.
FISHERMEN SCIENTISTS RESEARCH SOCIETY, RECRUITMEN TRAP
PRESENTED BY CARL MAC DONALD
The FSRS Trap Recruitment Project has been very beneficial to Scientists and is used to
aid in stock assessment. There are some gaps in ports not participating at this time and
the FSRS would like to fill these gaps.
The project to date has shown that recruitment is on the increase and fishermen should
see this increased reflected in their catches within the next year or two.
PRESENTED BY TIM BURNLEY, FROM THE LOBSTER SCIENCE
CENTRE OF THE ATALANTIC VETERENARY COLLEGE
The possibility of studying the effects of pollutants from plastic resins on lobsters was
mentioned as an important project that needs to be done.
The quality of Lobsters, whether held in holding devices or caught in the wild, is
determined by extracting blood and measuring the protein levels and hemocytes.
It was noted that there has never been a major die off of lobsters in Canadian waters due
to any illnesses. Most of the illnesses that affect lobsters are present in the wild, but are
mostly observed in lobsters in captivity, because these diseases seem to enter through
cracks or wounds, which may be caused in the capture of lobsters.
The transmission of these lobster-based diseases to humans does not occur.
The Lobster Science Centre continues to do research on lobster, and future mandates
may include a study to determine and identify a parasitic host causing the transmission of
diseases, and identifying genetic markers to distinguish the various lobster populations.
BRAS d'OR LAKES LOBSTER PROJECT
PRESENTED BY KARA PAUL, UNAMA'KI
The Bras d'Or lakes is an interesting ecosystem in that the lakes contain many species
that are common outside in the ocean, despite the difference in salinity. Some of these
species also adapt to deal with this environment. Industry asked if during the lobster study
in the Lakes, if any tests were done on the shell hardness, unfortunately none were
performed. The Unama'ki may be interested in doing a larvae drift study in the Lakes.
The Lobster Project in the Lakes used commercial lobster traps, however, a considerable
difference in catch rates between traps was observed. It was suggested that this might be
due to poachers and tourists hauling the traps. A wide range of sizes was captured, as
well as, by-catches of Rock Crab and Green Crab. The boat operator was experienced
fishing the Lakes during the 'Food Fishery'. It was unknown if a food fishery for lobster is
on going in the lakes during the Lobster Project.
The possible effects of an increase in the 'Black Back' (Winter Flounder) population were
The Unama'ki are involved in the protection of The Bras d'Or Lakes and it's species and
have begun to purchase lobster licenses for the Lakes, then retire these licenses so as to
relieve any fishing pressure on the lake's lobsters.
The Lake's ecosystem is rather unique with salinity levels ranging from a low of 4 ppm in
the surface waters after rain, to a high of 29 ppm in the outer Great Bras d'Or. The Lakes
have also experienced pollution due to sewers from many communities and cottages
emptying directly into the Lakes, and the rather slow rate of flushing.
SURVEY FOR JUVENILE LOBSTER ATLANTIC COASTAL ACTION
PROGRAM (ACAP) PRESENTED BY SHELLEY PORTER
ACAP may be a potential source for fishermen to seek out and partner with for specific
This experiment was not successful in finding juvenile lobsters in the tidal waters of our
coast, as they do in Maine, USA, however it did show that Cape Breton's coastline is
dramatically different and likely doesn't provide the necessary habitat for juvenile lobsters
The possibility of conducting another juvenile lobster study, using local divers and their
knowledge was discussed, and industry seemed to agree that it would be more successful
and worthwhile, if funding were available.
FISHERY PERSPECTIVES ON SCIENCE PRIORITIES
PRESENTED BY DENNIS SMITH
Dennis is a commercial fisherman from Little River, with nearly 44 years of fishing
experience. During his 44 years Dennis has seen remarkable changes in the gear,
technology and the types and sizes of vessels.
Key points touched on by Dennis include:
- The financial break even point is now at $43,000.00
- Fishermen have considerable amount of 'paper work' now, including logbooks,
HST claims, EI regulations, and license conditions.
- Fishermen must now take courses, such as MED, Digital Radio, Transport
- Fishermen must have an education to survive.
- Fishermen having been conducting science projects for years, but may not have
knowingly called it science. Many fishermen keep track of the number of spawny
lobsters they catch, or may be able to identify a certain lobster due to some
disfigurement, and track it's movement throughout the season if it is caught
- A challenge facing DFO Science and the lobster advisory representatives is to
communicate back to the fishermen in the harbours, in a language they can
understand, so that they can see the need for continued science activities and
cooperate if they choose.
- Fishermen want to fish, they for the most part are not concerned with attending
meetings, however they do want to be informed as to what is undertaken and
why? Fishermen reps must be able to get to these fishermen and explain the
basic concept of what science is attempting to achieve and how this may benefit
the fishermen and the industry.
SCOTIA FUNDY LOBSTER CONSERVATION STATEGY 2004 - 2008
PRESENTED BY - JIM JAMIESON, DFO
A brief history of the major conservation measures implemented by DFO:
- 1950 Limited Access Licenses and trap limits
- 1980's Introduction of escape vents and biodegradable panels
- 1998 Carapace size increases to double egg production.
DFO and industry must work together to develop a conservation strategy that will allow
fishermen to gain the most benefits from the fishery, while ensuring its sustainability.
We all must be better organized and informed to improve the way we do business.
Fishermen were asked if any conservation-oriented indicators should be identified.
Fishermen expressed distrust with DFO and were uncertain how indicators would be used
or if identifying them would be useful.
Some fishermen felt that the size increase was imposed on them and the results are not
yet positive, others believe the results are positive and will be even more so in the next
couple of years. DFO indicated a stock status report from the February 2004 assessment
meeting (RAP) is available to all interested fishermen. It was noted that the 2002 landings
data for LFA 27 lobster was not yet ready.
Other discussion points included:
- Seals and other predator prey relationships.
- Rock Crab by- catch and use for bait.
- The possible effects of seismic activity
- The success and implementation of a seeding project, with artificial reefs, as a
safe guard against a total collapse of the fishery.
QUESTIONS POSED TO INDUSTRY FOR WORKGROUP DISCUSSIONS
- What science work does industry think is required, what data
do they hope to achieve, and prioritize in order of importance?
- How can this science work be undertaken and completed,
both financially and logistically?
The Industry Fishermen and some of the presenters were divided into four working groups
and asked to discuss the two questions posed to them. A group leader and rapporteur
were identified. Fishermen from the same harbour were separated into different groups
when possible. John Tremblay floated from one working group to the other to assist with
any science issues that may arise.
GROUP # 1 RAPPORTEUR DAVID FERGUSON, INDUSTRY
Group one reported the following four main science priorities that industry felt should be
completed and which they thought with industry's cooperation could be financially feasible:
- A Tagging Study A tagging study would help identify any localized movement
of lobster in LFA 27. The tagged lobsters could also be measured at time of
recapture to determine exactly how much the carapace has increased.
Fishermen could be trained or one technician could be hired to tag lobsters
throughout LFA 27, both during the season when shorts and egg bearing females
could be tagged, but in the fall of the year when all lobsters caught could be
tagged. It was suggested fishermen may be willing to donate their time, vessel,
gear and fuel. The project would have to be coordinated and a rigid timetable
imposed to succeed, the project should be conducted after the molting season in
the fall but before the weather becomes a factor. The total number of tags would
have to be determined as well as a system to collect the returned tags and data
the following year.
- Larvae Drift Study This study was considered as equal importance as the
tagging study, however, it was noted the cost to complete such a study would be
a challenge. The group thought if the number of drogues needed to do a portion
of LFA 27 could be determined, then LFA 27 could have a study done over a
number of years by doing a portion at a time. The analysis of the data would have
to reflect yearly changes in weather patterns, water temperature, ice flows, and
strength and direction of wind. The group also thought a drag for larvae, based on
Guyborough's study, could be attempted if the costs to manufacture the drag
apparatus could be kept to a minimum.
- Egg Bearing Female Study The group felt fishermen would be willing to count
and record the number of egg bearing females caught in their traps throughout
the season. This would provide information on the number of egg bearing
females and any irregularities from year to year might correspond to fluctuations
in water temperature. This count would also provide a timetable as to when
spawning actually occurs and if more egg bearing females are more prevalent at
the start of the season as compared to the end.
- Escape Vents Fishermen are concerned about handling undersize lobsters,
although done carefully small lobsters are subject to injury while in the trap from
other lobsters and fish that are also trapped. The group thought some
experiments, just passing various size lobsters through an escape vent would
help determine if legal size lobsters are escaping. Industry would like a definitive
answer as to the most efficient size of vent that will allow small lobsters to escape,
but retain any legal size. The group also suggested various size escape vents
could be installed in commercial traps and fishermen could record the number of
small lobsters retained. It was suggested a test number of traps for each size
escape vent should be approximately 20.
GROUP # 2 RAPPORTEUR ALAN REEVES, DFO
Group 2 identified 12 topics of concern to industry, but prioritized it down to 5 main
projects. The 12 topics of interest are:
- Molting and diet, concerns with soft shell disease
- Green Crab predation
- Snow Crab distribution
- Rock Crab predation
- Food Availability, how this affects catch rates
- Escape Vents
- Disease Monitoring
- Industrial Impacts on the lobster
- Newly settled juvenile lobsters
The 5 main projects this group would like to undertake are as follows:
- Larval Drift Study This group agreed with Group # 1 that a current drift study
using drogues and buoys be conducted. The group also would like some towing
and larvae collection completed.
- Seal Predation The group thought it would be beneficial to know when and if
seals are eating lobsters. It is believed that seals prey on lobsters immediately
after molt, when the shells are soft, so a study to determine if seals sightings is
more prevalent during the molting season. The group also thought a study of any
past stomach analysis data would help determine if lobsters were present in the
- Rock Crab Predation The group thought a study of the Rock Crab fishery
might help to determine the availability of food, both the presence of juvenile rock
crab, and any competition with adult crab. The group also believes that adult rock
crab may prey on juvenile lobsters. If possible a stomach analysis of rock crab
may be interesting as well as setting up of a test site to see the interrelation
between rock crab and lobsters.
- Industrial Impacts The group felt it was important to see what or if any
adverse affects on the lobster stock could be attributed to industrial activities.
Some possible harmful impacts may be caused by lying of pipelines, sewer
outfalls, seismic activities, test drilling, and fresh water run offs. The group would
like to see a video survey in potentially harmful areas, post season sampling
survey to determine the distribution of lobsters (do they move off shore in the
fall?), larvae sampling, and a study to determine the direct effects of seismic
- General Lobster Health Monitoring The group thought it would benefit the
industry to have a lobster health monitoring system in place, possibly in
cooperation with The Lobster Science Centre. The group would like to see blood
and tissue samples routinely taken and sent for analysis to help prevent any
diseases like the soft shell.
GROUP # 3 RAPPORTEUR JEFF BROWNSTEIN,
Group # 3 reported first their 6 priorities for science and followed that with suggestions to
help get these projects completed.
- Larvae Drift Survey The group wanted a study done to determine what effects
wind and current play with the larva stage of lobster from LFA 27. The group
thought additional information on water temperatures would be beneficial, also the
identification of any spawning 'hot spots'. The group felt it might be important to
study possible habitat enhancement work and the possibility of seeding these
areas with stage 4 larvae.
- Status The group wanted more at sea sampling of lobsters and for the
trap recruitment experiments done by the FSRS to continue and expand if
possible. The group would like the FSRS to expand the data they present to
include result from the individual ports, rather than LFA 27 as a whole.
- Enhancement / Study The group already mentioned habitat
enhancement and the possibility of future seeding projects, but they also would
like more information on our local habitat and if it will support larger lobsters.
Some concerns were expressed about the amount of larger lobsters on the
bottom now, due to conservation measures adopted, and whether the local
habitat could support these lobsters, or would they leave for a more suitable
- Predator / Prey Relationships A study should be implemented to identify the
relationships of lobster to various species such as; seals, rock crab, sea urchins,
starfish, perch, kelp, and green crab.
- Algae / Slime Fishermen in this group have noticed in the last few years the
presence of a brown algae substance as well as a green slime. Fishermen have
noticed catch levels seem to fall when these are present. Is this the result of the
slime getting on the gear or for other reasons? Fishermen would like to have
samples taken to identify what type of algae is present and how it affects the
- Lobster Study The group thought a juvenile lobster study would be
beneficial to the industry. Divers would be necessary to find the small lobsters and
give estimates as to their numbers. It may also be interesting to know if juvenile
lobsters prefer a certain area, a juvenile area?
The rapporteur then reported how the group thought it best to achieve the ability to fund
and conduct these studies.
- A committee must be formed to initiate other science workshops, and to
identify possible sources of funding.
- One dynamic person must be hired, one who is familiar with the fishing
industry, but also has experience dealing with all levels of government
and understands the methods and avenues to follow in order to acquire
- must device a way, in cooperation with science and industry, to
develop a plan of action for completing specific science objectives, and to
get cost estimates and prepare timetables.
- We must use the wide base of knowledge already available, we must
partner with existing groups, such as the FSRS.
- The local Universities should be contacted and convinced that they
should be a part of any science initiative.
- Local community groups must be contacted and explored to realize if we
share any common goals. Partnerships may be formed with agencies
such as ACAP.
GROUP # 4 RAPPORTEUR CARL MAC DONALD, FSRS
The fourth group identified 6 science projects they decided should be undertaken:
- A) Larvae Drift Study Members of this group thought possibly some drift studies
might have already been done in the Cape Dauphine Area. We must look at
seeking out other science work already completed and determine if it is still
relevant. The group wanted studies done on the effects of wind, tide and weather
on larvae in LFA 27.
B) Pollution Studies must be completed to determine if lobsters are negatively
impacted by Industrial run off; sewer outflows, mining activities, etc.
- Seals The group wanted a study of the seal's diet and stomach contents done.
It is believed a lot of lobsters may be taken by seals, especially during the molt. A
test site could be established at the Bird Islands.
- Tagging Study This group not only felt a tagging study would be useful to
determine movement, but also they would like tests to determine the extent of
mortality caused by tagging. Past tagging projects had varying rates of recapture
and it was felt fishermen may not of cooperated, but others take exception to this
and suggest it may be caused by mortality, especially in areas of large industrial activity.
- Escape Vents Members of this group were concerned that escape vents not
only allow small lobsters to escape, but may also allow them to enter the trap.
The small lobsters potential face more danger in the trap from other species as
well as harm from not being handled properly.
- Seismic Seismic activity is proposed in LFA 27, the oil and gas industry claim
they will conduct this testing in the fall in the outer limits offshore of LFA 27. The
group thought experiments must, be done to determine to what degree seismic
activity will harm lobster larvae, and an out of season trap survey in the outer
parts of LFA 27 should be conducted to determine if any lobsters are present
there at that time of year.
Group 4 also proposed possible ways to achieve the ability to conduct some of these
- The larvae drift project will be a large and costly project. The group
suggested we look at previous work done, the successes and the costs.
- Fishermen who could volunteer their time, gear, vessels, crews, fuel, and
bait would be sought out. This contribution may be valued at close to
$50,000.00, and matching contributions may be available from other
- A science group or committee, comprised of fishermen, science and
other interested parties is formed. The committee would be responsible
to seek out and partner with outer groups or agencies such as ACAP or
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
The four groups identified many recurring projects of interest to the lobster industry. The
most common was a larvae drift study, and others such as, seal predation, pollution,
tagging study, stock status and escape vent studies.
The larvae drift is most important to industry and undoubtedly going to be the most
expensive. The workshop identified immediately that another workshop is necessary just
to deal with this study, and a committee must be formed to organize and begin the
necessary preparations to see the project progress from the planning stage to completion.
The workshop also demonstrated that fishermen are ready to share their knowledge, time
and vessels to help achieve good reliable science that their fellow fishermen may be confident with.
All present felt the workshop was a worthwhile undertaking, but expressed concerns over
the timing. Those present would like to start as early as possible on the next workshop so
that some initiatives could be in place for the 2005-fishing season.
- A future workshop must be held to explore all possible data on currents and tidal
drift for LFA 27. This workshop should be held no later than December 2004.
- Formation of a science working committee, may possibly be comprised of 6
industry representatives (2 from MFU, 2 from NOSFA, and 2 from ECBFA), 1
from DFO Science, 1 from LFA Lobster Advisory Board, 1 from FSRS, 1 from
First Nations, and 1 from a community minded group, which may aid in the
raising of funds. This working group should meet in August of 2004, to begin
preparation of the next workshop.
- The committee will develop a timetable for further workshops and science
LOBSTER SCIENCE WORKSHOP PARTICIPANTS
- John Tremblay DFO, Science
- Alan Reeves DFO, Science
- Carl MacDonald, FSRS
- Duncan Bellefontaine, Guysborough County Fishermen's
- Tim Burnley, AVC Lobster Science Centre
- Kara Paul Unama'ki
- Shelley Porter, ACAP (Atlantic Coastal Action Plan)
- Jim Jamieson DFO, Management
- Jeff Brownstein, Little River
- Colin Dandy, Sydney Mines
- Austin LeBlanc, Alder Point
- Raymond Boutilier, Alder Point
- Dennis Smith, Little River
- Pat LeBlanc, Point Aconi
- Stanley Symes, Ingonish
- Jackie Smith, Englishtown
- Bert MacDonald, Little Lorraine
- Billy Wadden, Main-A-Dieu
- Gordon MacLeod, Ingonish
- Kevin Nash, Glace Bay
- John Wadden, Main-A-Dieu
- Kevin Spencer, Main-A-Dieu
- Philip Nash, Glace Bay
- Ron Nash, Glace Bay
- Lloyd Ogley, Glace Bay
- Darrell Thomas, Port Morien
- Allan Murrant, Port Morien
- Chris MacDonald, Wadden's Cove
- David Ferguson, False Bay
- Michael Buffet, Neil's Harbour
- Lloyd MacInnis, Little River
- Jackie Allen, Big Bras d'Or
back to previous page
Home Page |
About Us |
Around The Maritimes |
Places Of Interest |