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Mechanical issues behind incomplete crab/shrimp surveys; DFO refuses to release further info

Fisheries and Oceans officials in Newfoundland and Labrador say snow crab/northern shrimp surveys were "thinner" last fall or not completed at all in some areas as the result of "mechanical issues, and, to a lesser extent, the weather delays," but they won't say more than that.

Canada was left without a dedicated platform for ocean research this past January with the forced retirement of the 59-year-old Canadian Coast Guard research vessel Hudson. A replacement vessel isn't expected until 2025.



What vessel(s) were down, and how bad were the mechanical issues?


Those are reasonable questions considering DFO management/science track record.


To review: the province's snow crab quota fell 45% between 1999 and last year (69,000 tonnes to 38,000 tonnes); the inshore shrimp fleet in SFA 6 saw an 88% drop in quota between 2008 and 2021 (from 85,728 tonnes to 9,534 tonnes); and 2022 is the 30th anniversary of the "two-year" northern cod moratorium;


Can't imagine more relevant reasons.


NORTHERN SHRIMP SCIENCE


This past Feb. 25th DFO’s lead scientist on northern shrimp reported a “slight decrease” in the stock in shrimp fishing area (SFA) 6 from Cartwright to Nortre Dame Bay (the area most fished by the inshore fleet), while at the same time, acknowledging a 30% reduction in trawl survey coverage.


Enterprise owners questioned the shrimp science given the fleet had reported their 2021 catch rates as the best in recent years.


The reported decrease in SFA 6 was also questioned because DFO science had recorded an increase in the spawning stock there of just over 42% between 2020 and 2021.



SNOW CRAB SCIENCE


In early March, DFO's lead snow crab scientist said there was only one vessel (rather than two) available last fall to carry out the trawl survey off Labrador and eastern Newfoundland (fishing zones 2HJ3KLNO).


As a direct result, the survey completed in 2HJ3K was "thinned out", with no survey conducted in 3LNO at all.


NO ANSWERS


Asked by SEA-NL to elaborate on the problem with the research vessel(s), Dr. Atef Mansour, DFO's regional science director in the province, has this to say:


"My apologies, we are not able to provide the information at this time."


Respectfully, that's unacceptable — an affront to every owner-operator in this province who's suffered as the result of stock collapses/severe quota cuts/failure of stocks to rebound/run-of-the-mill gross federal mismanagement.


SEA-NL immediately filed a federal Access to Information request for all information related to DFO's inability to have all science surveys completed as scheduled.


The waiting time for an answer is at least 30 days, so stay tuned to this blog for more info.


SEA-NL can be a bit of a dog with a DFO bone, but then someone has to be.


Ryan Cleary,

Executive Director, SEA-NL


To read more about SEA-NL, and for owner-operators to join please visit our website or e-mail sea-nl@outlook.com Sign SEA-NL's petition to the House of Commons on non-core commercial fishing licences here.

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