Skip to content

The Importance of Harvester Involvement in Fisheries Science

January 7, 2020

This article was originally printed in the Winter 2020 edition of the Union Forum magazine, written by Miranda McGrath, FFAW-Unifor Science Coordinator. 

Why should your union be involved in any aspect of fisheries science? – The better question might be – why not?

FFAW, with the leadership and determination of harvesters, helps to drive fisheries research within our province to new limits.  FFAW-initiated surveys have become a major contributor to science at the assessment level – bringing information from harvesters, the main stakeholders in the fishery, forward to the science table. To ensure science accurately reflects harvesters’ observations and experience, the union has expanded on this and developed our own science team to contribute as much as possible to the science-based Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) assessment process.

For many years, FFAW has contributed annual survey work on snow cab, northern cod, halibut and lobster but the list does not stop there.  Your union has also branched out to help better understand red fish, capelin, lumpfish, mackerel, and even the invasive green crab.

FFAW works with a team of six individuals focused solely on science.  Of course, there are a number of others available to step in on various projects and together they take on the issues harvesters believe are not being covered by DFO and to further push DFO to dig deeper in their research.

What happens when fish harvesters take control of science initiatives?

We’ve been successful in implementing the 4R3Pn halibut longline survey, which has better results than DFO’s trawl survey and in turn have been able to grow the quota available to harvesters on the west coast.

As a result of this work, FFAW is part of the Nova Scotia-based Halibut Longline Survey – which previously involved only Nova Scotia-based harvesters completing halibut survey work directly off our shores. Your union fought hard for NL harvesters to be able to participate in this survey and now Newfoundland and Labrador harvesters actively participate each year alongside Nova Scotia.

We’ve been successful in conducting long-term surveys like the cod-sentinel program which has been ongoing for over 25 years.

We’ve also undertaken cod-tagging around the province for a number of years, to mark and recapture cod – giving us a better view of movements and growth patterns.

The Post-Season Snow Crab Survey began 16 years ago and continues to develop and gather more information by the expansion of small mesh pot use and incorporating random stations.

The lobster science program has been ongoing since 2004, providing DFO with information on undersized lobsters picked up by the modified lobster trap, along with v-notch information, egg-bearing females and daily catches.

Along with our long-term programs, we also work on starting up new science projects to reflect the changes that harvesters see in their day-to-day lives.  One such program is our science on capelin – which started out by interviewing capelin harvesters and conducting an egg sampling survey.

Similar actions were taken with Mackerel by collecting young-of-the-year along the northeast coast, with the goal of obtaining more genetic information that will assist in determining where Mackerel are spawning, which could have a great effect on the current stock assessment.

Keep an eye on our website and social media for any upcoming science work that you could be involved in; callouts for harvester work are posted there, or if you’d like more information about any specific project feel free to contact us at 576-7276.