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
(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 Scotias 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
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
Second, we are asking that he permit Fundy-based fishermens 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
The newly formed Bay of Fundy Fisheries Council, constituting all of the Fundy-based
fishermens 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.