Severe ice conditions this spring led to a very late start to the crab fishery in 3K. Harvesters took huge risks with their boats and gear trying to get out to the fishing grounds. The late start also contributed to high fishing pressure on the resource when soft shell crab is most abundant and in its most vulnerable state. This is certainly not a new issue, especially for those that fish the offshore area in 3K known as 3K4.
Harvesters have been expressing concern for years on the amount of damage being caused to the resource by fishing during that particular time of year. The committee that represents harvesters in this area have been trying to deal with this issue for several years and for the past three they’ve proposed a fall fishery option as a way of minimizing fishing mortality on soft shell crab during summer. There was however very little support from either DFO or the processors to pursue any type of a fall crab fishery.
The FFAW initiated numerous discussions and debates throughout the summer and fall with DFO and ASP and eventually there was an agreement to conduct a test fishery in 3K4 to look at quality including meat yield. DFO was adamant that participation must remain low. As a result, eligible harvesters had to have at least 25% of their 2017 IQ remaining. This meant only 13 vessels would participate in the test fishery. Each were issued a permit for one trip only with a trip limit of 10,000lbs. The project started November 15th and ended December 2nd.
Rick Kean, a harvester and chair of the 3k4 committee says he’s glad that DFO finally decided to listen to the harvesters and get this work done. “This could be a very positive step for the fishery in this area and we look forward to getting the results,” said Kean. Kean hopes that if the results are positive, DFO will be open to a fall fishery option in the future.
Participating harvesters thought the test fishery went really well and were pleased they got the opportunity to land at least some of the crab they had left in the water from the summer. “Excellent catch rates, no soft shell crab and absolutely no destruction to the resource,” said Doug Wells, a harvester from Jackson’s Arm and a participant in the fall test fishery.
The Barry Group agreed to process all the crab landed from this project and Marine Institute was contracted to conduct the sampling and analysis ashore. We all anxiously await the outcome and your Union will release results as soon as they are available.