Catches of snow crab. (Photo: Stock File)
Crab fishers defy DFO's quota cut
Tuesday, April 26, 2011, 01:10 (GMT + 9)
Many fishers are questioning the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ (DFO) decision to slash the snow crab quota to a record low of 6,556.9 tonnes for the second consecutive year.
The DFO reduced the quota by more than 60 per cent in 2010 to 7,141.2 tonnes from 21,000 tonnes in 2009.
Robert Haché, spokesperson for snow crab associations from New Brunswick, noted that the low quota lowers revenue for fishers and shortens both the season and the working hours of crab processors and other workers, reports Telegraph-Journal.
"It's going to be a very short season again because of the low quota that was allocated," he said. "People are pretty upset about that."
He believes New Brunswick's coastal communities have lost millions in spinoffs in addition to the total industry losses estimated at CAD 30 million (USD 31.4 million).
But Regional DFO Director Ghislain Chouinard defended the decision to lower the snow crab quota, saying exploitation rates had escalated in recent years and led to a drop in crab populations.
"The stock was declining at quite a rapid rate and as a result there was a significant reduction in the amount of crab allowed to be taken," he said. "When you get to these levels you get nervous because you don't know if the stocks will be able to recover."
Even though Chouinard admitted that crab stocks go through high and low cycles, he said quotas must be kept low to ensure enough adult crabs remain in nature to spawn.
Haché rebutted that after 2010’s drastic quota cut, fishers found as many crabs in their traps as they did in 2009.
"If the biomass of crab had decreased by 63 per cent, it would have had an impact in the fishery but we didn't see that," he pointed out.
New Brunswick crabbers have thus hired Dr Gerard Conan of Marine Geomatics to evaluate DFO’s scientific reasoning for the lower quotas.
Conan, who holds a PhD from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in the US, estimated an abundance of 36,648 tonnes of commercial quality crab - 20 per cent higher than DFO’s figures of 30,500 tonnes.
He concluded that "producing minimal biomass estimates is not an adequate approach for managing the snow crab stock.”
"This can only hurt the level of industry's confidence in the work of (the department's) staff," he commented.
The snow crab associations from New Brunswick, Quebec and Prince Edward Island (PEI) addressed DFO Minister Gail Shea in a letter noting Conan’s findings and requested that the department seek a new peer review of the scientific data before setting this year’s quota.
By Natalia Real