The message from lobster and snow crab fishermen in New Brunswick is clear, but those casting nets and dropping traps in the Gulf of St. Lawrence say it’s fallen on deaf ears.
The president of the Maritime Fishermen’s Union – an organization which represents 1,250 lobster fishermen in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia – says more communication is needed.
“It would be nice if whoever is the ones making the decisions or advising the ones making the decisions, why don’t you sit down with the people that are actually on the ground and listen to what they have to say?” asks president Carl Allen.
Closures on the Gulf continue to multiply. The latest comes after five North American right whales were spotted between the Gaspe Peninsula and Miscou. Once an endangered whale is spotted, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans restricts the surrounding area 15 days.
The regulations come following a deadly season last year, when 17 right whales died in Canada and the United States.
In a statement released last week, DFO said the closures are the most effective way to protect right whales from entanglements in fishing gear, adding that they are using the best scientific information available.
“These measures are about more than protecting these whales, and in doing so they are also protecting the long-term economic well-being of our coastal communities,” the statement reads.
“The world is watching how we’re handling this issue and we are mindful of the potential impacts to trade that depend on our choices.”
Those who operate processing plants like Westmoreland Fisheries in Cap-Pele – the largest processing plant in Canada – fear the closures could lead to quotas not being met and orders not filled.
“It has an impact across the whole chain. We’re literally all in the same boat in terms of dealing with this issue,” explains Nat Richard, the director of corporate affairs for Westmoreland Fisheries.
The Minister of Fisheries says New Brunswick would like the federal government to extend the season and adjust the number of hours needed for employment insurance.
“We just put it to the federal government and said, look, we need some help here. Let’s make sure we’re front and center and work towards a good outcome here,’ says Rick Doucet.
The federal government says it won’t be handing out cash any time soon, but in a statement, press secretary Vincent Hughes said they are exploring possibility of extending the fall lobster season to make up for lost days.
“While we are not looking at financial compensation, we are actively working on ways to help processing plant workers qualify for employment insurance and exploring the possibility of opening the lobster fishery in the Fall to make up for lost fishing days,” wrote Hughes.
The latest closure goes into effect on June 15 at 4 p.m.