Overall the status of lobsters has improved since 1997 in Lobster Fishing Areas (LFAs) 27-30 (Eastern Cape Breton). In these LFAs a series of management measures were introduced from 1998-2002. The largest change was a stepped increase from 70 to 76 mm carapace length (CL) in the minimum legal size (MLS) in LFA 27. With the adopted management measures, Egg/Recruit (E/R) doubled in LFA 27 and increased by a lesser amount in LFAs 28-30 based on earlier runs of the E/R model. Landings in LFAs 27, 29 and 30 were higher in 2001 than in 1997 (the year before management changes were introduced). Although 2001 is the last year for which reliable total landings data are available, catch rates from index logs indicate total landings in LFAs 27-30 were higher in 2003 than 2001.
Coincident with the increase in MLS in LFA 27, there were improvements in indicators for egg-bearing females in the north of LFA 27 and for indicators of market-sized lobsters throughout LFA 27. These indicators are based on catch rates from three sources: voluntary fishing logs, recruitment traps set by the Fishermen and Scientists Research Society (FSRS), and at-sea samples of the commercial catch. The observed changes in indicators were consistent with the expected benefits from the size increase.
Stock improvements in LFAs 29 and 30 resulting from the management measures were not detectable by the indicators, likely because changes in these LFAs were not as significant as in LFA 27. In LFA 29 catch rates of several size groups increased substantially in 2003 and the indicators for prerecruits were very positive. The source of the increase is unclear with the data currently available. In LFA 30 there are signs of increased exploitation, but removals are still low relative to LFA 27. The lack of reliable indicators for LFA 28 clouds the picture of stock status. Ongoing studies in LFA 28 will address questions related to lobster habitat in Bras d'Or Lake.
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