Inshore harvesters — including a member of FFAW’s inshore council — dispute snow crab science: FISH-NL

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Oct. 17th, 2017

The Federation of Independent Fish Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) questions why the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans would report poor scientific signs of snow crab when it’s not the full picture of the state of the resource.

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The results of crab surveys carried out by inshore harvesters won’t be available until December.

“The science is only half of the story — inshore harvesters have the other half,” says Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL. “This shows the same old disconnect exists between DFO science and what harvesters are reporting on the water. Why does DFO report doom and gloom when all the information is not on the table?”

Local media quoted a DFO scientist this week as saying that scientific surveys of crab stocks in bays around the province show a general decline. DFO biologist Darrell Mullowney also said official survey results won’t be released until early 2018.

But some inshore harvesters who carried out crab surveys recently report high crab catches in certain areas — in some cases, the best they’ve ever seen.

Brad Doyle, a fisherman from Carbonear, conducted a crab survey this month between 30 miles and 120 miles off the northeast coast (fishing zone 3L). 

"The results of my recent survey help prove what fishermen have been saying — crab stocks are doing very well, we even found good signs of crab in areas where we didn't expect good results,” said Doyle, adding that scientific work does not reflect the overall health of the crab stocks offshore. 

Other harvesters report good signs of crab in surveys carried out in Notre Dame Bay and White Bay. 

“DFO Minister Dominic LeBlanc spoke earlier this year about devaluing fishing licences,” said Cleary. “The question must be asked whether this is part of some master plan to do just that.”

Local media have reported that FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan doesn’t dispute DFO’s snow crab science.

However, that stand is at odds with a member of the union’s inshore council — veteran Port de Grave fisherman Wayne Russell, who’s fished for 40 years.

Russell said in the September issue of The Navigator magazine that he disputes the snow crab science. 

Russell and other fishermen carried out their own snow crab survey this past spring and summer in small-mesh pots, and found an abundance of female and young crab, reflecting good recruitment and a healthy stock. 

“What we found was amazing. It went to show that we were right,” Russell told the magazine. “The crab are not in decline in the areas we fish, and the recruitment is there.”

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