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Cool heads must prevail as tensions rise between 3Ps scallop/lobster fishermen (who are often both)

Garnish fisherman Preston Grandy (also a member of SEA-NL’s executive board) says his life was threatened on Sunday by lobster fishermen over scallop dragging on the western side of Fortune Bay. The RCMP were later called in. Besides a plea for cooler heads to prevail, there’s nothing more to say about the incident at this point, although there’s much more to say about the two fisheries.

According to DFO, the landed value of the 2023 lobster fishery is $114 million — almost double 2019's $64-million landed value. Lobster has overtaken northern shrimp as the province's second most valuable fishery after snow crab. The landed value of this year's sea scallop fishery is $2.9 million, up from $2 million in 2019.



The scallop fishery in Fortune Bay closed in November 2022, but DFO apparently planned to lift the closure earlier this month after a working group of lobster/scallop fishermen proposed measures to mitigate the possible clash of the two fisheries.


Only when DFO was set to open the scallop fishery, lobster fishermen complained and the department reversed/"reneged" on its decision.


But then DFO changed its mind again, and actually reopened the scallop fishery for a two-month test fishery in a small area of Fortune Bay.


So much for decisive leadership.


When Preston, who served on the scallop/lobster working group, was heading to the scallop fishing grounds on Sunday, Oct. 15th, he said he was confronted by the angry lobster fishermen.


(I'll leave that there where the police are involved.)


Some fishermen say lobster are damaged by scallop gear dragged over the fishing grounds (DFO points out the concern in its own scallop management plan), but there seems to be little scientific evidence to back that up.


Scallop live on sandy and gravel bottom areas, while lobster live mainly in areas with rough, rocky bottom.


In some areas, DFO has implemented seasonal closed areas and season closures by water depth to protect lobster and lobster habitat from the possible effects of dragging.


But again, the hard-and-fast science, DFO or otherwise, is not there to say scallop dragging is definitely bad for lobster.


Preston — who along with his misses, Tonia, are known for taking on the invasive species that is green crab in 3Ps — wants to find out, and document what they see.


PRESTON GRANDY HAS A POINT


Grandy fishes fish both scallops and lobster, and he says the last thing he would do is fish one species at the expense of the other.


Other 3Ps lobster/scallop fishermen say the same, which makes sense. (A good fisherman would never cut his own throat.)


Another point Preston makes is there's no indication the scallop fishery has hurt lobster.


DFO stats reveal that just over 15 million pounds of lobster have been landed in 2023 — compared to 10 million pounds in 2019, and 4.8 million pounds in 2013.


Landings in lobster fishing area 11 (3Ps) have stayed consistent since 2019, according to separate DFO data.


3PS LOBSTER LANDINGS (LOBSTER FISHING AREA 11)

2019 — 1,541 tonnes

2020 — 1,353 tonnes

2021 — 1,593 tonnes

2022 — 1,481 tonnes

2023 — 1,583 tonnes (preliminary as of mid-August) • DFO data


"If the lobster numbers haven't declined then there's no damage done by the scallop fishery," says Preston, adding he's scallop dragged all over Fortune Bay, and even put underwater cameras around much of the bay to see where fishing would/would not be viable.


Preston says that if science can show that scallop dragging is bad for lobster then he would be the first to stop fishing scallops — period.


I can't fault his logic.


RECREATIONAL SCALLOP FISHERY ALSO A PROBLEM


Some fishermen speculate that as much as 20,000 pounds of scallops may be harvested a year in the recreational fishery, and sold illegally in the underground economy. (One enterprise owner compared it to the rum-running days.)


DFO does not provide catch data on the recreational scallop fishery,


In 2019, there were 21 commercial scallop harvesters who reported landings in scallop fishing area 11 (3Ps), and by 2022 that number had increased to 24.


While the recreational scallop fishery remains open in the area, recreational harvesters are not permitted to utilize mechanical or hydraulic devices while fishing.


The inshore fleet has enough against it without fleets going at each other.


Cooler heads must prevail, and direct any and all passion towards strengthening the inshore.


Ryan Cleary,

Executive Director, SEA-NL

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is a professional, non-profit organization that serves as the distinct voice for licensed, independent owner-operator inshore fish harvesters. Visit sea-nl.ca to join. If you have any issues contact me at sea-nl@outlook.com or 709 682 4862.

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