By Eric McCarthy
FOR THE SOU’WESTER
Transcontinental Media/Journal Pioneer
O’LEARY, P.E.I. – Twenty-four fall lobster fishermen, who each received a $ 20,000 advance to shelve their licences this year, could be eligible to re-enter the fishery next year if a rationalization plan isn’t finalized by March 31.
The Prince County Fishermen’s Association’s Lobster Rationalization Committee had agreed to pay $175,000 to fishermen who would retire their licences permanently, but when the anticipated federal funding to help with the retirement package didn’t come through fast enough, the provincial government agreed to loan the committee up to $600,000, enough to pay 30 fishermen $20,000 each to take the season off, on the condition they would exit the fishery permanently once federal funding was put on the table.
Only 24 fishers agreed to take the deal, though. Now the clock is ticking. “We have to have it done by March 31,” said rationalization committee member and PCFA president Shelton Barlow. He said Lobster Fishing Areas must submit conservation plans to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, utilizing the department’s Evaluation Framework for Sustainability Plans for LFA Wide Conservation Measures for Atlantic Lobster Fisheries by Jan. 31.
If the submitted plans, which must have LFA-wide agreement, are not accepted by March 31, Barlow said, the fishers who took the year off can choose to return.
There’s $ 3 million available from Ottawa for rationalization, provided LFA 25 fishers, including Northumberland Strait fishers from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince County and First Nations can agree on a conservation plan.
The Prince County committee has contracted Sandra Gaudet, retired DFO area director for P.E.I., to help put its rationalization plan together.
Barlow said the federal money would cover 50 per cent of the cost of retiring licences. The committee would have to find the means of covering the other 50 per cent.
Twenty-four licences were seen as just a start. “We’d like to go for 34,” Barlow said, “ but we’re going to try to settle down with 24 for now. We don’t know how this is going to turn out.”
By Eric McCarthy
Organizations: Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Lobster Rationalization Committee, Evaluation Framework for Sustainability Plans for LFA Wide Conservation Measures for Atlantic Lobster Fisheries First Nations Prince County committeeTop of page