The Prince Edward Island Fishermen’s Association is strongly opposed to allowing mid-water trawl Herring Seiners to fish the 4T Edge area of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
This permission to the Newfoundland-based Barry Group was recently granted by Federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Keith Ashfield.
Association president Mike McGeoghegan said the primary concern of fishers is that one entire component of herring stock could be caught at once eliminating this stock forever. Herring return to the same spawning area for their entire life cycle. They are one of the most important fish in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, attracting crab, lobster, groundfish and tuna stocks to the region.
He said the mid water trawls are able to target fish at different levels versus fixed depth fishing.
In addition, the association president pointed out there is no requirement for seiner boats to move to different areas and spread out the impact on the fish stocks.
“Insufficient scientific data has been accumulated to warrant this significant change in gear type,” McGeogehan said. “ Fishing in 4T was to be a one year pilot project followed by an industry review. This has not taken place.”
The 2011 4T allocation for the seiner fleet for the Edge Project was 5000T (11000000 pounds of fish). However based on Department of Fisheries and Oceans statistics, no quota was caught by the seiner fleet in the 4T Edge area. He said there is no compensation plan in the event the mid water trawls result in lower catches for commercial fishers.
McGeoghegan said the association has written to Ashfield asking him to immediately suspend the Edge Pilot Project until the serious risks involved in mid water trawling have been assessed.