July / 1998

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The following are various articles taken from the latest Bulletin , a publication put out by the MFU head office located in Shediac, New Brunswick.

Contents :

Spring Lobster
Picture Still Uncertain

Herring News

MFU Fishermen on Committees

Notes From MFU Executive Secretary

Renewed Interest in Roe on Kelp

Rock Crab Survey to be Implemented

Nothing New Under the Sun

License Buy Back Program

Creation of the Southern Gulf Bonafide
Fishermen's Advisory/Management Board

Spring Lobster
Picture Still Uncertain

At the end of the spring lobster season, the preliminary results in a number of areas show the possibility of landings being higher than last year in all the LFAs .

This is obviously little consolation for fishermen in areas where the season has been disastrous. Nevertheless, these results could be signaling the end of the general downward trend in catches and offer a glimmer of hope for the future to fishermen of the Bay of Chaleurs and some regions of Cape Breton. The results of the fall and spring seasons in Southwest Nova Scotia were good except in a few specific areas.

Ideal atmospheric conditions, early ice departure in the Gulf and warm weather certainly helped stimulate catches at the beginning of the season and the drop in catches, usually seen at the end of the season, was predictable.

Processors confirmed a certain abundance of lobster during the entire month of May. They also confirmed the dramatic drop in catches seen by our fishermen in June. According to Jean-Guy Maillet of Pêcheries Cap-Lumières, the total quantity of processed lobsters this season should be slightly higher than last year.

In general, prices fluctuated around 4.00$/lb for canner and 4.50-75$/lb for market. In New Brunswick, prices for canner were comparable to last year. In Northern Nova Scotia and in Cape Breton, those prices represented a general reduction in price of 25 cent/lb for canner and 50 cent/lb for market compared to last year. It seems that the percentage of market size lobster was superior to the one of preceding years which could explain narrowing of the price difference between markets and canners.

According to Jean-Guy Maillet, the lobster market diversified five to six years ago and the European market is taking more and more importance compared to the North American and Asian markets. Even with little innovations this year, the market seems to be in good health.

Janis Raymond from the Nova Scotia Fisheries Department thinks that the processors were not prepared to receive such a quantity of lobster in the month of May. Some processors may have had to adapt their production according to their capacity rather than strictly on the market. Although nobody can be sure of that, it could explain why a lower Canadian dollar compare to the American currency this year didn't translate in higher prices for the Canadian lobster.

On May 16 1997
$1.00 US = $1.40Can
100 Japanese Yen = $1.23Can

On May 16 1998
$1.00 US = $1.47Can
100 Japanese Yen = $1.11Can

Conservation measures according to Anderson

Following the FRCC (Fisheries Resource Conservation Council) report urging measures to double lobster egg production in all fishing zones and following consultations in the different fishing areas, Minister Anderson decided to implement a number of conservation measures as soon as this year.

Fishermen from LFA 23 in Northern New Brunswick saw the minimum carapace size increase from 2-5/8" to 2-21/31", an increase of 1/32" (0.8 mm). The number of traps went from 375 to 350 and will continue to be reduced by 25 traps each year until they reach 300.

This year in LFA 24, the minimum carapace size increased by 1/16" and will increase by 1/32" for the next few years until reaching 2-21/31" by the year 2001.

In LFA 26A, the southern part of the Northumberland Strait, the minimum size went from 2-9/16" to 2-19/32" which represents an increase of 1/32" (0.8 mm). Two other identical increase are planned for the year 2000 and 2001. This means that the minimum carapace size will reach 2-21/32" by the year 2001.

Therefore, all the LFAs in the Southern Gulf will have a minimum carapace size of 2-21/32" by the year 2001. (LFA 26B in eastern Cape Breton is already at 2 3/4".)

An optional V-notching program of berried females will also be in effect in LFA 23, 25, 26A and 26B.

In LFA 27 (Sydney Bight), the minimum carapace size went from 2-3/4" to 2-13/16". The size will again increase by 1/16" in 1999 and in 2001 to reach 2-31/32". In 2001, a maximum size of 5" for females will be implemented.

In LFA 28, 29, 30, 31 and 32 (east of Halifax and Southern Cape Breton), the minimum carapace size was set at 3-3/16". The size will be increased by 1/16" this year. All these lobster fishing areas will reach 3-3/8" by the year 2001.

The measures have not been announced for the rest of Scotia Fundy (LFA's 33 to 41).

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Herring News

Spring Herring in Southwest New Brunswick
The bulk of the inshore quota (9,000T) in 16 C and E was caught in a few days around May 15th. DFO then started to close the fishery whenever there was fish around; leaving 150 operators on standby for many frustrating days.

Fishermen received from $15.00 to $20.00 a barrel for their catch ( from 6¢ to 8¢ a pound ) that mainly went to the bloaters and bait market which are the traditional markets for this herring.

Perspectives on Fall Herring

Southern Gulf
The global quota was increased by 10% for the Gulf compared to last year. The quotas for the inshore will be as follows :

In the Bay of Chaleur, fishermen will be able to catch 19,884 tons. In 16C and 16E (Escuminac and West P.E.I.), the quota is set at 6,600 tons. In Pictou, it's set at 6,800 tons and in Fishermen's Bank at 6,800 tons.

Sydney Bight
Last year, some fifteen inshore fishermen from Glace Bay and Port Morien participated in a roe fishery along the east coast of Cape Breton. Although the fishermen faced some practical problems, the experiment nevertheless managed to prove the viability of an inshore roe fishery in that region. Last year's roe was of good quality and this year we expect around twenty fishermen will participate in the fishery. Fishermen have asked DFO to be allowed to start their season at the beginning of August, six weeks earlier than last year. Last year, they had a 1,500 ton quota for the roe on kelp fishery. This year, the quota could be based on the abundance of certain schools.

Southwest Nova Scotia
At the time of writing, our fishermen were not sure what would be their degree of participation in the herring fishery in Southwest Nova. According to Vesta Adams the MFU herring representative for Local 9, the price being talked about is not attractive.

It's difficult to obtain information on markets at the present time. The economic situation in Japan, our only market for roe, isn't too encouraging. Nevertheless, roe processors in the Gulf generally seem to think that the market hit its worst low last year. It also seems that the quality and the small size of the roe landed by seiners in Scotia-Fundy does not meet Japanese quality standards. Negotiations with the Japanese have yet to start and although few people want to make predictions, a few buyers have ventured that last year's price would at least be maintained.

For other herring markets, we are told that demand for frozen filet in Europe and pickled herring in the US is stable. On the long term, some are predicting a reduction of the enormous quotas fished in northern Europe (more than one million three hundred thousand tons) in 1997. This could open new markets for our products around the year 2000.

MFU Fishermen on Committees

Our MFU members serve on a vast number of different committees from the local Port Authority to the Atlantic wide Large Pelagics Committee (Bluefin tuna, swordfish). Members also serve in different posts within the MFU itself and its companies (Opilio and Pecten). The Bulletin will attempt to recognize these individuals over the next few issues:

Herring Committees

Gulf Small Pelagics:
François Beaudin, MFU fisher from Miscou Island, represents his fellow fishermen from Northern New Brunswick . He is also the President of the large Northeast N.B. Local 1.

The Southeast N.B. (zone 16C and E) is also represented on this Gulf Herring Committee. Lucien Thibodeau normally represents the Bay Ste Anne area fishermen.

For 16E (Northumberland Strait) both our V.P. Ron Cormier and Local President Alfred Babineau play a key role. The MFU Local 2 has its own internal herring committee which meets to prepare positions for the consultations. This Committee consists of :

Roger L. Cormier .....................Cap-Pelé
Maurice Doucet ........................Richibucto
Jean-Paul Robichaud ................Pointe Sapin

Nova Scotia
All three Locals in Nova Scotia have always played a key role on Herring consultative committees.

For Local 4 (Pictou Shore), Bryce Thompson and Gordon Beaton represent the MFU Local in the Federation of Gulf N.S. Herring Fishermen.

Local 9: The MFU has a long history on the Scotia Fundy Herring Committee, a committee that the large seiners have always tried to dominate.

Graeme Gawn has been the MFU leader on this committee over the years but at present the task has been left to Vesta Adams. It is important to recognize that much work goes into a herring fishing plan.

Up to this year, MFU Local 6 in Cape Breton has always been officially represented on the Scotia Fundy Committee but only recently has there been an important interest in Scotia Fundy herring. The Local spearheaded protests two years ago against Gulf Seiners fishing in 4VN. Local 6 President Jeff Brownstein has played a key role.

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Notes From MFU Executive Secretary

* Snow Crab
We believe millions and millions of dollars worth of Area 12 snow crab have been lost to fishermen because DFO's ultra conservative quotas have left quantifies of crab in the water to die - according to biologists snow crab live approximately 5 years once they have reached their legal size (terminal molt).

As far as I can see DFO is repeating the same blind approach off Louisbourg where initial surveys done by DFO's Mikio Moryasu. reveal large quantities of snow crab in areas not fished by the presents license holders. If the survey is anywhere near right, the fishable biomass in Areas 23 and 24 may be close to that of Area 12 but the quotas being set are only a tiny fraction of what the initial surveys are showing (at the time of writing Scotia Fundy has not announced its snow crab plans but the figures being talked about are extremely conservative). DFO 'higher ups' are being ultra cautious in the name of conservation but this seems to be a smoke screen to avoid the tougher questions of re-allocation.

* Vessel Replacement Policy
For years MFU fishermen wanted to be able to improve their lobster vessels in size for comfort and safety but vessel replacement rules in fixed gear groundfish sometimes meant they had to have two vessels. So, it was with much anger that I see Minister Anderson has changed the rules for ITQ mobiles in Scotia Fundy while ignoring the long time inshore demand for change. Anderson justified his new policy, that will allow a 43 foot vessel to be replaced by one as large as 64' 11", by stating "The ITQ program provides each license holder with access to a specified share of the allocation granted to the fleet. These replacement rules will not affect capacity as they do not impact the amount of fish individual fishers can harvest." (DFO Press Release April 17/98).

If there is no capacity issue under an ITQ system, then why is the Government of Canada spending taxpayers money to buy-back from members of the ITQ fleet?

The Council of Professional Fish Harvesters has just compiled a paper on Co-Management in the Inshore Fishery. Anyone wishing a copy should contact the CCPFH directly at:
Tel : (613) 235-3474
Fax: (613) 231-4313.

* Sentinel Fishery
The MFU has been awarded the contract for the Sentinel Survey Project-Fixed Gear - Gulf N.B. . This will require 7 vessels making 20 trips. Miscou Bank has been added as a site.

MFU Cape Breton was a pioneer in the Sentinel Fishery . For the last four years MFU Local 6 was part of the 4Vn Sentinel Fishery Association that manage the surveys in this area.

* Scallop Enhancement
The MFU continues to work on scallop enhancement. It is very good news that the Province of New Brunswick and ACOA have committed to financing the project in 1998. This project will directly benefit 250 of our members and indirectly all of our members.

* Native Food Fishery
At the time of writing, the DFO has reached a tentative agreement with the Burnt Church reserve (Miramichi) regarding the lobster 'food fishery'. The DFO approach is to buy back commercial licenses and hold them for transfer to the Bands when and if a satisfactory agreement is reached on the food fishery. Even though negotiations affect very directly MFU fishermen, we are not included in the talks. We do know that the tentative Agreement still does not limit satisfactorily the 'food fishery' to being only a food fishery.

* Study on Sustainability
Omer Chouinard, former MFU staff and presently a Professor at the Université de Moncton, has begun a follow up lobster effort study that was presented at Convention. The MFU has agreed to contribute $ 5,000 towards the new project which will attempt to interview lobster fishermen on the best ways of achieving continued sustainability in the lobster fishery.

* MFU Health Insurance
For the first time this year we were able to offer a basic prescription drug plan to our Nova Scotia members. The offer was made to all MFU members in good standing as of January 1, 1998 and who chose to pay the additional $50. Approximately 70% of the members applied.

In New Brunswick, because fishermen agreed to use a portion of the snow crab allocation in 1995 to establish a health fund, we have been able to finance an extension of the plan to cover the family. New Brunswick members also contribute a $50 premium. Under the previous voluntary program a member had to pay $391 to cover the family and less and less fishermen were opting to buy it. Under the new program in 1998, 918 families are now covered.

Renewed Interest in Roe on Kelp

Fishermen are gaining renewed interest in roe on kelp. In Bay St Anne and Richibucto, three experimental traps have generated approximately 35,000 lbs of product. What happens is that kelp is set at the bottom of the herring box net trap and herring spawn attach themselves to the kelp. The kelp is then harvested by divers and processed in brine, cut, and packaged for the Japanese market. In Bay St Anne the project is in its third year.

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Rock Crab Survey to be Implemented

The Maritime Fishermen's Union has agreed to collaborate with DFO on a project to collect more data on rock crab. The MFU will survey with a certain number of lobster fishermen from Locals 1, 10 and 2 on the subject of the rock crab fishery.

Sacha Morrisette who has been working for the MFU in Tracadie for the last few summers will do the survey in the province's northeast this summer. Some of you probably have already met him by the time you read this article. Nathalie Brun who is presently working for MFU head office in Shédiac will do the same in Local 2 later this fall during the lobster season.

DFO is interested in a number of aspects of the rock crab by catch. The survey looks into the link between the type of trap used and the rock crab by-catch. The survey will also collect some data on the amount of rock crab thrown back at sea, sold or used for bait.

The evolution of rock crab as bait is another topic of interest of the survey. Biologists are interested to know why and when rock crab is used as bait during the lobster fishing season and if rock crab is used as bait in specific fishing areas. DFO also wants to know how fishermen see the state of the resource and the future of the rock crab fishery.

Nothing New Under the Sun

Once again this year the mackerel is hard to find on our coast and once again DFO biologist claim that there are more than 500 thousands tons in our waters. François Grégoire DFO mackerel biologist says that again this year the mackerel stocks are present offshore both off Nova Scotia and in the center of the Gulf. According to M. Grégoire « Mackerel are looking for precise water temperature, in the last few years those temperatures are found a at a certain distance from the shore and that is where the mackerel spawns » .

Once again, fishermen from the Northumberland Straight are shocked by the large number of small mackerel in the stock they are buying for bait. DFO's official are saying that they took action after last year MFU's complain, we are still waiting for this years explanation.

License Buy Back Program

DFO has started consulting (in southern Gulf, June 30) on the announced groundfish License retirement plan. There are parts of the program that must change: For one thing we don't believe that a fisherman should be required to permanently exit the fishery, if he/she elects to sell his groundfish license/quota. Not only does the buy back become more costly, it leaves less flexibility to use the buy back to restructure a future cod fishery.

The total amount for buy back is 250 million; 25% of this is for the Scotia Fundy and southern Gulf. In the southern Gulf we believe it is sufficient dollars to do a very effective long term restructuring that would dramatically alter the future fishery towards the multi-species Bonafide. We do not yet have sufficient information from our Scotia Fundy members to determine whether the dollar amounts are satisfactory.

Creation of the Southern Gulf Bonafide
Fishermen's Advisory/Management Board

In May, the Maritime Fishermen's Union, the Prince Edward Island Fishermen's Association and the Gulf Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board formally agreed to form the Southern Gulf Bona Fide Fishermen Advisory/Management Board. The Board is comprised of four members from the MFU, four members from the PEIFA, and 3 members from the Gulf Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board.

The Board hopes to act as the Industry advisory board to DFO on aspects that may include professionalization, licensing policy, long term fleet planning, and other fisheries management issues that impact the inshore sector of the Southern Gulf. The Board has asked for formal recognition by DFO.

A motion supporting the creation of the Board was voted on at our last convention where fishermen agreed that the MFU must be consulted by DFO on all aspects of licensing policy governing the Bona Fide fleet. Discussion on the resolution at the convention highlighted how such a forum could help among other things put pressure on DFO to have them reconsider the case of bonafide fishermen who lost their status for core fishermen status. The resolution was amended to reflect this important issue.

Bulletin is the newsletter of the Maritime Fishermen's Union.
It is published in both English and French every six weeks.

Send all inquiries to:
The Maritime Fishermen's Union
Shediac, New Brunswick, EOA 3GO
Tel: (506) 532-2485 or Fax: 9506) 532-2487
Layout: Maurice Thériault

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