SPRINGDALE, NL — After five rough years in the crab fishery for 3K-4 offshore harvesters, Springdale fisherman Dean Weir is happy to hear some good news about stocks in the area.
The Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW) held union meetings in Springdale and Baie Verte Monday and brought some rare good news to the membership.
Weir doesn’t expect an increase in stocks to lead to any immediate increases in quota, but he hopes it will be easier for fishers to fill their quotas.
“We have got (our quota), but a lot of people never,” Weir said Monday afternoon following the meeting. “A few boats always end up at the end of the year without their quota.”
More trips to sea to obtain that quota lead to more expenditures, which decreases profits for harvesters.
“After so many trips, once it gets to a certain point it is almost better to just tie on,” Weir said.
The Springdale fisherman said positive news was much needed in the room of about 10 fishers. He commented before the meeting that not many were expected to show because many have retired and/or sold off their licences in the area.
A technical briefing held by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) Feb. 26 in St. John’s revealed snow crab biomass was relatively unchanged from last year, but more favourable water temperatures for crab resulted in better production in the last couple of years.
Instead of doom and gloom predicted for this spring in the crab fishery, scientist Darrell Mullowney provided some hope for the stocks and, in turn, the fishery in future years.
This year’s total allowable catch (TAC) and other management measures will be set by DFO following industry consultations throughout the province beginning March 6, and consideration of scientific advice.
Weir said market prices for crab have also been better in recent years, so filling quotas — and hopefully with more ease — would make for a better future in the industry.
Fishers at the table didn’t have much to ask of union representative Monty Way. They realize there is not much to gain from seeking quota increases, he said.
Last year’s trial fall crab fishery had some positive results, both in catches and meat yield, something Weir believes will benefit the industry.
“Hopefully that will take some pressure off during the spring,” he said.
Weir would be open to fishing during the fall of the year.
“You have no other choice if your quota is not filled,” he said.
Way said annual meetings taking place across the province with membership are important leading into the DFO’s advisory meeting March 13 in Gander.
“We will have our committee there; we will listen to the presentation from scientists and have our discussion, ask a few questions and put our positions forward to DFO,” he said.
These meetings will help form that position, and Way suspects there will be a request for a fall crab fishery.
“We are planning on, if people are satisfied, putting a proposal to DFO on a fall fishery moving forward,” he said. “We have had big concerns in this area with stocks coming down a lot from where they were historically and we have been dealing with soft shell for the last numbers of years, and people were really concerned about the destruction it could possibly be doing.”
He believes it would be better to end the season in the spring rather than linger into the summer, with harvesters having an opportunity to obtain their quota in the fall.
“At least, if the meat is not good in the crab, you can release the crab and the mortality is a lot lower in the fall as opposed to the summer,” Way said.