By Tina Comeau
There’s been a change to a trap reduction proposal that lobster licence holders are being asked to vote on by the LFA 34 Management Board.
The proposal now calls for fishermen to only fish 300 traps in the first three months of the season. Starting March 1, fishermen would fish 350 traps. Originally the proposal had been to fish 300 traps for the entire duration of the season.
The way it is now fishermen fish 375 traps when the season opens in late November and the number increases to 400 traps as of April 1 until the end of the season on May 31.
Licence holders will vote on the trap reduction proposal during a Tuesday, Sept. 25 meeting at the Rodd Grand Hotel in Yarmouth. The meeting gets underway at 1 p.m.
As well, licence holders will also vote on whether the season opening should be delayed one week from Nov. 26 to Dec. 3. Fishermen can vote to accept one or the other proposal, both proposals, or neither.
The tweaking of the trap reduction proposal and separating the two questions on the ballot was based on feedback the LFA 34 Management Board has received in advance of the vote.
Even with the change to the trap limit after March 1, the management board feels the proposal will still meet its overall objectives, which include, among other things, addressing the lobster glut during the season, reducing expenses for fishermen, improving the quality of the landings, improving safety on boats and opening up room on the fishing grounds. It is also hoped the measures will have a positive impact on the shore price paid to fishermen.
It is only licence holders, who bear the brunt of the expenses associated with the running of the industry, who will vote on the proposals. If a licence holder is unable to attend the Sept. 25 vote then he can assign a proxy to vote in his place. However, the proxy must also be an LFA 34 licence holder. And a proxy can only cast a vote for one other licence holder, in addition to the themselves. In other words, the same proxy cannot be assigned to vote for multiple licence holders.
The vote being held by the LFA 34 Management Board is completely separate from a vote the membership of the 1688 Professional Lobster Fishermen Association (PLFA) is taking that involves different conservation measures, such as a choice of staying home two days a week until Jan. 4 or voting on a favour of split season. The 1688 measures would be voluntary and the association says they could be scrapped along the way if they’re not working.
The measures proposed by the LFA 34 Management Board would be licence conditions and would be run as a two-year pilot project, to be assessed at the conclusion of each season.
In recent days the 1688 PLFA issued a press release disagreeing with the management board’s proposal. In that release the 1688 suggested the management board is in favour of measures, or creating measures, that would see the lobster industry move towards individual quotas. Members of the management board executive say nothing could be further from the truth. Board chair Jeff d’Entremont and vice-chair Cory Nickerson say the LFA 34 Management Board has never supported having quotas in the lobster industry.
What they have strongly supported is the continuance of the owner-operator and fleet separation policies, not wanting to see these things disappear within the industry.
The LFA 34 Management Board is made up of an executive and port representatives. The port reps are elected by fishermen from all ports in the fishing district. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans does not sit on the management board and DFO doesn’t attend the management board meetings except for the odd time they are there to give a presentation. The department is not involved in the management board discussions and has no vote at the table.
There is also an LFA 34 Advisory Committee, which is a separate entity from the management board. That committee is co-chaired by DFO but again, the department does not vote on issues that come to the table. The votes on issues taken by the port reps at these meetings are based on consultation with their ports and are aimed at providing industry direction on issues.
The trap reduction and season delay proposals fishermen are voting on come from the management board level, not the advisory board level.