The following are various articles taken from the latest Bulletin , a publication put out by the MFU head office located in Shediac, New Brunswick.
An Inshore Zone
The Fight for the Snow Crab Continues
In Season Summary
Lobster season in LFA 25
News from Cape Breton
News from S.W. Nova Scotia
Word Fisheries Day November 21/98
Mackerel in Northeast New Brunswick
Quebec Protest draw in Chrétien, Bouchard,
and the Archbishop of Rimouski Fishermen organizations
dragged to 'phoney' Montreal meeting
Northern New Brunswick
Report on Sentinel Fishery
The Index Fishery
Wharf Rep Profile:
Court Cases Drag On
MFU Backed Herring Protesters
Pelagics Research Council in Scotia Fundy:
No MFU Representation
Scallop Enhancement Pushing Ahead
MFU officials met at the end of May in Ottawa with Minister Anderson. As a result, Anderson has requested DFO's Jim Jones to work our an approach with us that would include a study of the economic impact of such a zone. DFO is presently contacting a consultant for the study. It will be done in October and November and the result will be incorporate into our final proposal to the Minister in December. The Minister promised us a firm answer for the end of February 1998.
According to DFO's figures, last year's catches were of 3,784 T (metric tons), that is to say the lowest yield since 1983 (see graphic). The all time record year for LFA 25 was 1985 with catches of over 6000 T . A total of 876 licenses are fished in the LFA with more than 600 in New Brunswick.
This year's prices are stable at around $3.50 for the canners and $4.50 for the market lobster. This is basically the same price paid last year and with a Canadian dollar that lost 10% of its value compared to the American dollar we wonder why it didn't translate into a price increase. When the spring season closed this summer, fishermen from the Southern Gulf were getting $4.00 and $5.00 for their catch.
What is DFO Protecting ?
The lobster fishery in the Northumberland Strait is the bread and butter for hundreds of fishermen. It is the 'make or break' fishery. In the fourth week of the fall fishing season, fishermen were asking the MFU why the Fisheries Officers were not on the water doing spot checks.
We made inquiries at DFO conservation and protection. There were no denials that coverage was down. Instead, we got 'What do you expect ? We have people full time on court cases, there is no budget for overtime, there are people on sick leave and so on'. So, even though the MFU had a solemn commitment from Minister Anderson for improved enforcement, DFO is telling us there may even be less.
So what are some of the court cases ? 60 of them are against spring herring fishermen, charged because of the 1997 spring protest fishery. At least 30 other fishermen are charged with not complying with hailing in their catch in the same spring herring fishery. DFO is wasting thousands of dollars trying to enforce a five cent fishery where the problem is an unacceptable management plan, not poaching. In the meantime, the all important lobster fishery is not getting the protection promised by the Minister.
What is the idea in all this? DFO is 'hellbent' to impose dockside monitoring, observer coverage and other controls on everything. Now they want it on the lowly rock crab too. This June DFO was demanding gillnetters who wanted to find a few flatfish to pay $ 60 for an observer at sea before the license was issued. This seems like institutional madness- where the gillnetters were fishing could be observed from the wharf by the naked eye ! DFO is holding up the entire LFA 25 rock crab fishery because fishermen refused to have students on board to figure out how the rock crab was being used for bait; what is next, dockside monitoring for scalpins?
Instructions for these things are coming from Ottawa, from senior DFO officials whose sole idea appears to be to show they are in control- common sense is not possible when an image of being in control is what is driving the fisheries managers. Our fishermen want protection of the lobster resource not stupid and costly controls that protect nothing except DFO's image.
Between 15 and 20 boats are fishing herring in the Glace Bay and Port Morien area, catches are generally good, averaging 15, 000 lb to 20, 000 lb per boat per fishing day. At the moment of writing, the fish caught was not quite ready for the roe market and was sent to the New Brunswick bloaters. Fishing should continue for the roe market in the coming days. This fishery was started last year for the first time since the 1960's
The science survey is just starting and fishermen are finding some fish. One boat caught 6, 400 lb while another caught more than 3000 lb. Up to 7, 000 hooks are used. Some boats even found a few haddock which have not been seen since the moratorium. Price varies between 55¢ and 90¢ per lb depending on quality.
Fishermen are seeing a lot of tuna but the area (4VN) is closed . Some fishermen would like to see a transfer of inactive licenses from the Gulf for example in order to activate a local tuna fishery.
Around 13 fishermen are fishing rock crab and are landing between 1 ,000 and 1,500 lb per day with a maximum of 150 traps. The crab is sold in Tignish (P.E.I.) for 30¢ lb.
The season that closed on July 15 th in area 27 was the worst ever seen according to MFU Local 6 President Jeff Brownstein.
There is a temporary permit for fishers on TAGS. 55, 000 lb is being fished using 30 traps. The price paid is $ 1.15/lb.
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Following Minister Anderson's request to double egg production, fishermen in LFA 34 held two workshops to address the issue of lobster conservation. Participants underlined the uniqueness of their fishing area which is enormous in comparison with other LFAs. Also, LFA 34 is adjacent to a very large production area which is either completely protected (Brown's Bank) or fished lightly (LFA 41). They also pointed out that their fishing season is closed in the summer when the lobster is ashore and easy to catch.
Because of this very complex situation there is actually no reliable information on the existing level of egg production and nobody knows what to double. So fishermen and their organizations believe that a major scientific initiative is required before all else.
Besides a comprehensive scientific research plan, recommendations at the workshops also included V-notching of all egg bearing females (during the season and during a scientific fishery in the summer).
The MFU Local 9, in collaboration with other fishing organizations in Western Nova Scotia addressed a join letter to Nova Scotia MLAs, MPs and Senators expressing the concern of fishermen regarding the management of the so called food fishery. The letter denounces the lack of control in the Native food fishery the way it is practiced now in West Nova Scotia.
The amount of lobster harvested is far too large to be just for Food and Ceremonial purposes. Regulations are so slack or so badly applied that they even allow non-aboriginal to practice an intensive commercial fishery outside the commercial season.
Mark Muise, M.P. for West Nova, responded rapidly by addressing a letter to Anderson urging him to "get a handle on the situation as soon as possible'.
Coming lobster season in area 33 and 34 will open on November 30, a bit later than usual since the last Monday of the month is also the last day of the month.
In Canada, the Council of Professional Fish Harvesters will be holding a high profile public Forum in Ottawa on November 21 to 23, to emphasize the determination of inshore fishermen and their communities to maintain a strong future fishery.
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With 90% of the fall roe fishery gone in the Bay of Chaleur, fishermen continue to receive $15 a barrel or 6¢ a pound ; this is a far cry from the $35 and $45 received in 1996. The Bill Atkinson News Report claims that Japanese consumption of flavored herring roe continues to drop and that there is also some shift in the supermarkets (of Japan) towards flavored Pacific roe (as distinct from the high end salted Pacific herring roe).
Eastern Canada roe product in 1997 was approximately half of what was being produced 8 years ago but still more than what Japan wanted. So apparently there was still inventory from last year to be sold.
On the other hand, fish meal prices are on the rise making the carcass more in demand. This is fortunate since the bloater's price for the carcass has dropped from 8 cents to 5 cents.
Slow start in New Brunswick
But regardless of the market situation, the herring was slow to reach the coast of Northern New Brunswick. Some believe that drastic changes in water temperature during the last winter may have affected the pattern; others think that the herring may have been disturbed in its movement by a premature fishery by the large seiners. The delays, combined with the poor prices, have caused many fishers to abandon the fishery as the expenses were exceeding revenues.
Bloaters are pessimistic
The Cap-Pelé bloaters did not get enough herring this spring to work at full capacity, a situation which may have depleted the area of many working weeks. Fishermen and bloaters expected an improvement of the spring herring fishery this spring but were all disappointed.(See the article on the court case in page 6). Just before the herring hit our coast, fishermen were forced to lift their nets which created a lot of frustration in the community. Due to constant bad management and harassment from DFO the bloaters are not optimistic regarding the 1999 spring fishery.
Furthermore, the bloater industry is not at its best. The price of the standard smoke herring box stands between $12.00 and $13.00 a drop from last year's $15.00. Bloaters are forecasting a hard winter which could lead to the closure of some smoke houses. The supply of split herring(a by-product of the roe fishery) is also lower than last year. All this is very uncomfortable for the shop workers who are in constant fear of not qualifying for unemployment insurance.
After the Archbishop of Rimouski mediated on behalf of these fishermen, DFO decided to have a special information meeting in Montreal. We were all forced into expensive travel to Montreal just to make sure nothing was decided that would hurt our members.
DFO scientists have no new data to change their assessment of the cod fishery. In the opinion of the Coalition of Inshore Fishermen's Organizations (The MFU, the PEI Fishermen's Association, the Federation of Gulf Nova Scotia Ground fishermen, and the Quebec Alliance of Professional Fishermen), the Montreal meeting was a phoney and unnecessary event.
The Coalition says the Southern Gulf of Saint Lawrence fishery must be restructured. The announced federal monies for a license buy-back program should be used to make the future cod fishery mainly an inshore fishery. This could best be done by reallocating percentage shares of mid-shore and offshore quota back to the inshore and then compensating those who give up their claims to future quotas.
While nothing came of the Montreal meeting September 10, Minister Anderson did make a commitment to meet with the Coalition within the next couple of weeks.
This year's sentinel fishermen are:
Cod landings are more or less the same as last year at the same time. The two areas of Sainte-Marie-sur-Mer and LeGoulet have doubled their catches but stations in Caraquet , Val-Comeau and Bay of Chaleur saw a small decline in their landings. In Escuminac, landings have improved compared to the ones of 1997 but are still on the low side. The Miscou station which has been added this year, registered important landings. The Index fishery gave similar results for that area.
According to a preliminary report from DFO Tracadie office, the fishing results are mixed. Nobody reached their 5 ton quota and most did not even reach half . Apparently, the results tell us very little because fishermen had no time to gear up and weather prevented fishermen from using all of their days.
So, once again DFO has devised a fishery where the mid-shore mobiles get 73% of the quota and have no real restrictions on catching it. Whereas the small fixed gear were not only limited to a few hooks and a few nets but also to an unpredictable 10 day fishery!
Like a lot of fishermen of his generation, Telex started to fish with his father when he was 16 years old. In 1972 he began fishing on his own. "Lobster catches were then at their lowest; we were getting less than two tons per year and given the price that we were getting, I wonder how we were able to get by. During those years, I fished scallop as a helper as well. After 1976, I got my own license and I geared up my own vessel "
Telex also fished groundfish until 1994. Today besides lobster and scallop, he also fishes mackerel. For some time his wife fished with him but for the first time this year it's his son that goes fishing with him.
Regarding the future, Telex doesn't believe that we will see good years like we had in the late 80's "We have increased our fishing effort in different ways. In this particular area, we are also more than we were and we cover more ground. On the other hand, with the small carapace size increase we just applied and if we can have the necessary protection in order to counter poaching, we should be able to stay away from similar dark years like we saw in the 70's.
Telex shares his work as wharf rep with two other representatives : George Vautour and Claude Cormier.
Most of the fishermen were accused of fishing without a valid bait license and obstruction. Until now all the court decisions have been in the fishermen's favor. A dozen of them saw their charges withdrawn because of errors made by the Crown. For example, the charges were not delivered to the fishermen at least seven days before their appearance in front of the judge. In other cases, nobody had been appointed to do the translation that was necessary. Twenty one fishermen are still waiting for their appearance in court on October 15, 1998.
Bloaters from Cap-Pelé were also charged in relation with the same protest fishery. The buyers were accused of buying illegally fished herring and providing wrong information to DFO officers. Some of the bloaters have already appeared in court and have pleaded guilty on both charges. They were sentenced to a $ 1,000 fine for every offence.
A dozen spring herring fishermen also appeared in court this past July in Miramichi on charges brought by DFO for failing to hail their catches during the 1997 season. In the end, most fishermen plead guilty but the judge only imposed a nominal fine of 1$. Believing it was understandable for fishermen from the Escuminac/Baie-Ste-Anne region, who were submitted to 100% dockside monitoring, to feel it was redundant for them to hail their catches.
The MFU had no choice to testify as a material witness in the case after receiving a subpoena from the Crown. The MFU participated in the hailing system following a public meeting with its members to help reduce costs and allow the fishery to open in 1997. Another twenty fishermen will appear in court this October in Shediac facing the same charges.
In a letter to DFO Director General, Neil Bellefontaine, the MFU's Executive Secretary, Michael Belliveau asks him to clarify "why so much government involvement and resource is committed to a Council that excludes virtually all of the inshore interests. We would also like clarification as to the weight and recognition you are giving this Council in establishment of stocks status, allocation and fisheries management."
Bellefontaine answers Belliveau but does not address the question raised. Instead, he lectures Belliveau on the wonderful value of partnerships, on how conservatively the herring fishery is being managed and how shocked he is that the MFU Executive Secretary would even raise the question that the Council's work might simply aid the fleet to extend its fishing on stocks that are clearly depleted ! Yet, the Council's own document says things like "In the Bay of Fundy we propose using seiners on research and scouting exercise during the regular roe season."
The fact is that Scotia Fundy herring has almost collapsed in the 1990's. There is little indication that in 1998, even with a quota about 40% less than that in the 1980's, the seiners will be able to catch it. As for the mackerel, it doesn't belong to them although they have been after it for years. This is not a Scotia Fundy stock and if there is to be research with public funds it should be directed and monitored by the major stakeholders which are the inshore fishermen of the Gulf and Scotia Fundy and Newfoundland.
As for the price tag, Bellefontaine says our question should be directed at HRD (Human Resources Development)- as if HRD would not have sought full agreement from DFO before approving such an expensive expenditure ($1,208,000)!
ACOA has expressed serious interest in the program and has agreed to set up a meeting this fall to work out a long term funding agreement . The New Brunswick Dept. of Fisheries and Aquaculture has contributed $50,000 to this year's program and ACOA has committed approximately $ 100, 000.
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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