Atlantic fisheries have been greatly affected by the collapse of the northern cod in the early 1990s. As this lucrative fishery collapsed, economic activity refocused on the next most lucrative species – lobster. Government focused on ensuring income for the lobster fishers and reducing their operating costs and ignored conservation and sustainability of the lobster population. Not surprisingly, landed volumes of lobster climbed quickly since the 1990s bringing close to $1 billion a year and 25,000 jobs to the Canadian economy by 2007, bringing the lobster population under significant stress and endangering the sustainability of the fishery.
A major shortcoming in the efforts to manage the lobster fishery sustainably is a lack of clear information on the lobster population. There are signs that the stocks are being exploited too heavily. In particular, too many immature females are being caught -- although legally under current regulations -- before they can reproduce. This pattern of ignoring biology and continuing to authorize increased catchment, is eerily similar to the last years of the cod fishery. More study and monitoring of the populations and modeling of the productive capacity are needed to ensure that the current fishery is sustainable. Government has not yet considered this a high priority.
More controls on fishers are required to support the sustainability of the fishery. It takes information, discussion, courage and strong leadership to maintain a sustainable fishery. Government depends on DFO staff to provide the information and to maintain good relationships with fishers to have any chance in leading the sector towards a sustainable future.
We need to continue to press elected officials and decision makers to do the right thing in the short term for success in the long term.
Vote on what issue you think is most important in Canadian fishery management.