Fire / Feu

Un autre assaut contre la morue

Après avoir été gravement affectée par la surpêche dans le Golfe Saint-Laurent il y a six ans, la pêche à la morue souffrira peut-être le même sort dans la Baie de Fundy.

David Coon, du Conseil de conservation du Nouveau-Brunswick (CCNB), croit qu’en vertu de la nouvelle gestion de la pêche dans cette région, la pêche à la traîne prendra vite le dessus sur les autres types de pêches.

D’autre part, pour prévenir l’épuisement des stocks, un groupe de scientifiques et de représentants de l’industrie ont proposé une autre réduction du quota. Selon le CCNB, on ferait fausse route. Premièrement, les quotas pour la pêche côtière et la pêche hauturière ne devraient pas être confondus. Deuxièmement, le CCNB propose que des organisations de pêcheurs locaux puissent déterminer la gestion des poissons de fond en fonction des cycles biologiques et de l’écologie de la Baie.

For Cod’s Sake

David Coon
Policy Director,
Conservation Council of New Brunswick
October 1998

f.gif (304 bytes)isheries management has not changed in any substantive way in the six years following the catastrophic collapse of northern cod stocks off and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that the cod fishery in the Bay of Fundy is in dire straits.

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(photo: Conservation Council of N.B.)

Codfish in the Bay of Fundy, you might ask? While Fundy is world-renowned for its lobster, scallops and sardine herring, cod and other groundfish support a significant fishery – two million dollars worth landed by local fishermen in southwestern New Brunswick alone last year. There is a long-standing longline (hook and line) cod fishery off Saint John during the spring that dates back to at least the 1850's. Come summer, gillnetters fish down on the Grand Manan Banks and between Grand Manan and the Wolves, handliners fish off of White Head Island, Grand Manan and Campobello, and fish draggers operate wherever they can find fish.

Part of the problem in the Bay of Fundy is that with the decline of the offshore fishery and the apparent decline off of Nova Scotia’s south shore, boats that carried out part or all of their fishing outside the Bay of Fundy are now concentrating more on the Bay. Local fishermen in both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are extremely concerned that this could spell the end of the groundfishery here. The increased dragger activity is also a problem for handline fishermen. It can take up to a week for fish to start taking a hook and line again after a dragger has steamed over a local fishing ground.

During the spring, I attended a meeting of scientists and industry representatives who were considering this problem at the request of Fisheries Minister David Anderson. The scientists concluded that further reductions in quotas may be required to relieve the pressure on the cod and pollock in particular. When asked about other possible management recommendations to the Minister, they suggested it was not within their mandate to do so.

(photo: Government of NB)

As we have seen in the past, quota management rarely results in conservation. However, quota reductions would render an unfair situation even more unjust. Those who fish with fixed gear, i.e., with hook and line or gillnets, are allocated a portion of the overall allowable catch based on their history of landings between 1986 and 1993. The fish draggers, with a few notable exceptions, can increase their quotas simply by buying or renting them from others. If the overall quotas for cod and pollack are reduced for the Bay of Fundy-Scotian Shelf region, individual fish draggers could make up the difference by buying or renting quota from those who decide they could make more money marketing their reduced quotas than fishing them.

The Conservation Council has written to Fisheries Minister David Anderson to recommend that a new approach be taken to protect local Bay of Fundy fisheries from the fishing effort that was once concentrated elsewhere, but is now focused on Fundy fishing grounds.

First, we are urging him to make the Bay of Fundy off-limits to the Temporary Vessel Replacement Program (TVRP). Offshore quota simply should not be fished in the Bay of Fundy.

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Second, we are asking that he permit Fundy-based fishermen’s organizations to establish rules governing how, when and where to fish based on the biology of the groundfish and the ecology of Fundy, as an alternative to reducing quotas.

To move forward on this, an institutional arrangement is required for fishermen's and fishing organizations to work out the fishing rules for the new management area.

It seems that the community groundfish management boards that already exist in the Bay of Fundy, the Fundy Fixed Gear Council and the SWNB Groundfish Management Board, are well placed to initiate a process that would bring together the fixed gear fishermen, the independent dragger fishermen and the two fishing companies that operate in the Bay of Fundy to work out an agreement on new rules. Perhaps these sectors could come together as a Bay of Fundy Groundfish Management Committee.

Once in place, any vessel fishing in the Bay of Fundy would have to abide by the fishing rules that have been agreed to, whether they are rules governing fishing seasons, gear-specific area closures, general area closures, fishing power, or what have you.

In our view, there is no one better suited to developing effort controls than fishermen whose families and communities have fished the same fishing grounds for generations. They hold a reservoir of ecological knowledge about those areas that is unparalleled. Nor is there anyone better suited to exercising stewardship over fishing grounds than those who communities have depended on their bounty for two hundred years.

Thus far the Minister has rejected these suggestions and has yet to meet with CCNB despite repeated requests. For a cabinet minister who says conservation is his first, second and third priority, he turns out to be remarkably uninterested in the views of conservation organizations.

The newly formed Bay of Fundy Fisheries Council, constituting all of the Fundy-based fishermen’s organizations in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, is putting together a set of proposals for the Minister, and hopes to meet with him in November prior to the release of the groundfish management plan for next year. They will be looking for community support of their proposal during October and November.