Political pressure for an early opening of the Gulf crab fishery

Quebec is pressing Ottawa to authorize the opening of the snow crab fishing season in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence as soon as possible, in which crabbers from the Magdalen Islands, Gaspé and New Brunswick participate.

In a letter sent on March 28 to his federal counterpart Joyce Murray, a copy of which was obtained by the QMI Agency, the Quebec minister responsible for fisheries, André Lamontagne, points out that the early opening of the snow crab fishery in the Gulf is , so far, “the most effective adaptation measure that reconciles the protection of right whales [menacées d’extinction] and fishing activities”.

It will be recalled that the American market risks closing in on Canadian exports of fish and seafood, if Canada fails to put in place viable management measures to protect the whales.

Mr. Lamontagne also asks Ms. Murray to do everything possible to ensure that all fishing ports are quickly de-iced, and “to authorize the start of fishing in the ports as soon as they become ice-free”.

So far, the ice, stronger this year in the Gulf than last year, is delaying the opening of the season. Last year, it started on April 3.

“Right now, there is almost nothing left in the Gulf, apart from a small pass of ice not too wide, along Cape Breton, comments Denis Éloquin, captain of the “Jean Mathieu” from Grande-Entrée, to the Magdalen Islands. There is also ice remaining in Baie des Chaleurs along the New Brunswick coast between Shippagan, Lamecque and Caraquet, but it should be cleared shortly.

However, Joël Gionest, captain of the “Carlo G” from Caraquet and president of the Association des crabiers acadiens (ACA), which brings together the largest number of traditional crabbers in the Gulf, argues that fishing conditions are still not safe in Baie des Chaleurs, due to the presence of ice.

“Fishing must be safe for everyone, including Chaleur Bay. And I think that as long as there is going to be an edge of ice stuck against the Acadian peninsula, that security will not be there.

Under a season opening protocol adopted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada in 2020, fishing could open even if wharves are not completely ice-free, provided that the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, including the Baie des Chaleurs, be free of ice and that fishing can take place in a safe manner.

Fishermen will have the opportunity to discuss the situation on Friday morning during a conference call with the department.

Elsewhere, in the St. Lawrence estuary and on the North Shore, further west, the 2022 crab fishing season has already been in full swing for several days.


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