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Offshore lobster and Jonah crab - Maritimes Region


American lobster
(Homarus americanus)
Jonah crab
(Cancer borealis)

This document constitutes the Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP) for the Maritimes Region offshore lobster and offshore Jonah crab fisheries in Lobster Fishing Area (LFA) 41. It is based on an ecosystem approach, employs co-management and continues the shared stewardship process used in this fishery to ensure sustainability of the fishery.

Where DFO is responsible for implementing obligations under land claims agreements, the IFMP will be implemented in a manner consistent with these obligations. In the event that an IFMP is inconsistent with obligations under land claims agreements, the provisions of the land claims agreements will prevail to the extent of the inconsistency.

This IFMP is not a legally binding instrument, which can form the basis of a legal challenge. The IFMP can be modified at any time and does not fetter the Minister’s discretionary powers set out in the Fisheries Act. The Minister can, for reasons of conservation or for any other valid reasons, modify any provision of the IFMP in accordance with the powers granted pursuant to the Fisheries Act.

Signed: Regional Director, Fisheries Management, Maritimes Region

1. Overview of the fishery

1.1. Introduction

The Offshore lobster and Jonah crab Integrated Fisheries Management Plan evolved from the 1970s through a series of public policy decisions and operational plans. The current plan was published in 2011. It contains provisions for the inclusion of Ecosystem Management Objectives through an evergreen (annually extending the plan) review approach. The intent of this plan is to provide the policy framework to guide the operational management of the offshore lobster and Jonah crab fisheries.

1.2. History

1.2.1. Beginnings: 1971-1975 licences and area

As a result of the growth of an offshore lobster fishery in the United States (US) during the latter part of the 1960s, similar Canadian interest in an offshore lobster fishery on Georges Bank began. In July 1971, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) announced the opening of a Canadian offshore lobster fishery. The fishery was authorized for a geographical area termed Lobster District A, which is the area seaward from the offshore lobster boundary line - 50 nautical miles from the geographical base line for the 12 mile limit. This district extended along the entire outer portion of the Scotian Shelf.

In 1970, the US government imposed restrictions on the importation of swordfish due to increasing consumer standards on mercury levels in food products. This approach negatively affected the Canadian swordfish longline fishery, which exported the majority of its landings to the US market. In an effort to provide an alternative fishery option to the Canadian swordfish longline fleet, the Canadian government offered an opportunity to the 56 swordfish longline licence holders, predominantly based in Southwest Nova Scotia (SWNS), to fish offshore lobsters. However, few of the swordfish vessel licence holders opted to acquire an offshore lobster licence and, by 1972, only 6 swordfish vessels had entered the new fishery, with 2 additional licences entering the fishery in 1976. The awarding of the 2 additional licences caused serious reservations among the SWNS inshore lobster industry as concerns were expressed that the offshore effort may negatively impact the viability of the inshore lobster fishery.

The Canadian offshore lobster fishery initially occurred on the known lobster grounds of southern Georges Bank. This provided an obvious geographical separation between the inshore and offshore fleet activity. Exploratory efforts indicated concentrations of lobster along the eastern and southwestern portion of Browns Bank which contributed to offshore catches from all areas increasing to 678 tonnes (t) by 1976. Since many inshore fishermen believed that the offshore harvesting effort could be disrupting the migration of lobsters to the inshore grounds, they expressed serious concerns on the impact that this new offshore lobster effort may have on their established fishery. The average landings for inshore SWNS lobster decreased from 4036 t during 1970-1976 to 3120 t for the period of 1976-1980.

1.2.2. Restrictions: 1976

While the inshore lobster fleet’s concerns about the potential impact of the offshore lobster fleet on lobster migrations could not be supported with the data available at the time, DFO responded by applying additional restrictions on the offshore lobster fishery. These restrictions included:

  1. freezing the number of offshore lobster licences at 8;
  2. limiting the number of traps at 1000 traps/vessel;
  3. applying a 10 month season (to be chosen by the vessel owner); and
  4. a 408 t Total Allowable Catch (TAC) on the 4X portion of Lobster Fishing Area (LFA) 41, which included the area closest to the inshore fleet, Brown’s Bank area.

Only 6 of the 8 licences were permitted to fish in this part of the offshore area, with the remaining 2 licences restricted to Georges Bank.

All 8 licences had fishing access to Georges Bank, including 5Ze, with no quota limits.

1.2.3. Closed area: 1979

In 1979, DFO established a rectangular regulatory closed area on Browns Bank, identified as LFA 40, to protect lobster brood stock (see Figures 2 and 3). The closure is still in place and encompasses all portions of the bank shallower than 50 fathoms and straddles the inshore/offshore line with approximately 57% of its area in LFA 34 and 43% in LFA 41. This closure did not affect other gear sectors at that time.

1.2.4. The Hague Line affects the fishery: 1984

During the period of 1977-1984, the 408 t TAC remained in effect. In October 1984, an International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision established the official boundary between Canada and the US in the Gulf of Maine known as the Hague Line.

The ICJ ruling subsequently displaced the American offshore lobster effort from areas now defined as Canadian waters, principally in Crowell Basin and Georges Basin. Average annual American catches from these 2 combined areas were estimated at 200 t. The Canadian offshore lobster allocations were based on:

  1. the 4X 408 t TAC;
  2. the average annual Canadian 5Z (Georges Bank, Georges Basin and part of the Northeast Channel) lobster catches; and
  3. 100 t from the estimated American catch from Crowell and Georges Basins and Georges Bank.

1.2.5. Enterprise Allocation Program introduced: 1985/86

The combination of (1) a small marginally profitable offshore lobster fleet, (2) a major trans-boundary ruling by the ICJ in 1984 and (3) increasing conservation and economic concerns from the inshore fleet relating to impact of this fishery on their own fishery generated an environment requiring a collaborative conservation strategy involving DFO and the offshore lobster fleet. In response, the Offshore Lobster Advisory Committee (OLAC) was formed in 1985. This committee was originally comprised of the offshore lobster licence holders, the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and DFO.

In 1986, OLAC recommended an initial 3-year trial Enterprise Allocation (EA) Offshore Lobster Management Plan for this fishery, which provided licence holders with the equivalent of transferable quotas. During this period, the TAC was established at 720 t and a DFO economic analysis indicated that an allocation of 12.5% of the TAC (90 t) to each of the 8 vessel licences was sufficient to support a vessel replacement program.

The effort control measures adopted at this time included:

  1. a TAC of 720 t;
  2. the number of licences limited to 8, with an individual vessel licence quota of 90 t;
  3. specific vessel trap limits; and
  4. an October 16th – October 15th season for optimizing market quality requirements.

1.2.6. Integrated Fishery Management Plan

In October 1995, DFO announced that access to the Canadian offshore lobster fishery would be based on the following provisions:

  1. that the 1989/90 EA Program and the IFMP be extended until October 15, 2000; and
  2. that the previous vessel licence trap limit provisions be rescinded.

During the period from October 16, 2000 to the date of implementation for this plan, the fishery operated under the auspices of the 2000 Draft IFMP.

1.2.7. Jonah crab licences: 1995

Through the years, the offshore lobster industry periodically landed some Jonah crab as a bycatch in the lobster fishery. In the latter part of 1995, a proposal from the offshore lobster industry to land Jonah crab on a regular basis was approved. Jonah crab licences were issued and a TAC was set at 720 t. The fleet was limited to a male only Jonah crab fishery with a minimum size limit of 130 mm carapace width (CW). Offshore lobster traps were used.

The 720 t Jonah crab TAC was caught, or nearly caught, in the early years of the directed fishery, but then landings declined sharply to only 14 t in 2007. The fishery’s short time series and a lack of information on Jonah crab biology in LFA 41 limited the Department’s ability to assess the status of the stock; however, both commercial and survey data indicated a decline in Jonah crab abundance following the start of the fishery. In response, the TAC was reduced in 2010 to 540 t on a precautionary basis and then again to 270 t in 2017.

1.3. Current fishery

1.3.1. Management approach

The lobster and Jonah crab fisheries in LFA 41 are open 12 months of the year: from January 1st to December 31st. Both species are fished with traps. Unlike the inshore lobster fishery, there is currently no trap limit in the LFA 41 fishery, nor any limit on the overall dimensions of the traps. However, traps used in the offshore are similar in design and size to those used in the inshore.

The offshore lobster and Jonah crab fisheries are managed primarily by a combination of controls including:

  1. limiting the amount of lobster and Jonah crab that can be harvested through the use of an annual TAC;
  2. a minimum lobster carapace length of 82.5 mm and minimum carapace width for male only Jonah crab of 130 mm;
  3. release of egg-bearing and v-notched female lobsters; and
  4. a limited number of licensed vessels.
Table 1: Total allowable catches (TAC), 2019.
Lobster 720 t
Jonah crab 270 t

Removal references have not been adopted for either fishery. In the case of lobster, this is due to the uncertainty associated with the productivity regime shift in LFA 41 and the relevance of historic, relative fishing mortality on the current stock. Instead, the current offshore lobster TAC is predominantly based on historical landings and the economic objectives of the fishery.

In the case of Jonah crab, the TAC is being maintained at 270 t with an intention of increasing it should the licence holder retain landings within the range of this amount and should scientific analysis indicate a higher level of exploitation can be sustained.

1.3.2. Participants

In recent history, all licences were held by 1 company, Clearwater Seafoods Limited Partnership (CSLP). Prior to the start of the 2021 season, 2 offshore Jonah crab licences and 2 offshore lobster licences were re-issued to Membertou Band Council. In September 2021, the remaining 6 licences for offshore Jonah crab and 6 licences for offshore lobster were reissued to First Nation Coalition Quota Limited Partnership (FNC Quota). The current distribution of licences is shown in Table 2. The licences are issued by DFO’s Licensing Office for Maritimes Region.

Table 2: Licence distribution in the offshore lobster and Jonah crab fishery (2022)
- Lobster Jonah crab
No. licences Allocation No. licences Allocation
Membertou Band Council 2 12.5% of the TAC per licence 2 12.5% of the TAC per licence
FNC Quota Limited Partnership 6 12.5% of the TAC per licence 6 12.5% of the TAC per licence

When the first offshore lobster TAC was established in 1976 at 408 t for the 4X portion of the commercial zone, a vessel quota existed, with each vessel having an equal quota; that principle continues to remain an integral part of this plan.

1.3.3. Location

Fishing occurs within the boundaries of the offshore lobster area known as LFA 41, which is described in the Atlantic Fishery Regulations. LFA 41 begins at the 50-nautical-mile line from shore (92 km) and extends vertically from the Hague Line on Georges Bank to the Laurentian Channel off Cape Breton (Figure 1); however, all traditional offshore lobster and Jonah crab commercial fishing occurs on 5 major grounds: Georges Bank (outer shelf and upper slope), Georges Basin, Crowell Basin, Southeast Browns Bank (outer shelf and upper slope east of the Northeast Channel) and West Browns, all within NAFO Divisions 4X and 5Ze (Figure 2).

Map illustrating location of LFA 41 and other lobster fishing areas in Maritimes Region

Figure 1: Location of LFA 41 and other lobster fishing areas in Maritimes Region

Map illustrating main fishing grounds in LFA 41

Figure 2: Main fishing grounds in LFA 41

Fishing for lobster and Jonah crab under this plan is restricted to the NAFO Divisions 4X and 5Ze within LFA 41 (see Figure 2). Access to areas outside 4X and 5Ze remains dependent upon agreement between licence holders and DFO and would be subject to scientific requirements similar to those of the New Emerging Fisheries Policy.

1.3.4. Time frame

The quota-year has varied over the history of the fishery. It was annual (January to December) up to 1984, October 16th to October 15th in the period of 1985 to 2004 and then annual again up to the present. Higher TACs in 1985-86, 2004-05 and 2007 were due to extended seasons during the transitions to new quota periods.Footnote 1

Specific changes in season remain subject to DFO approval pending consultations with licence holders.

1.4. Consultative process

1.4.1. Offshore lobster and Jonah crab advisory committee

The name of this plan has been changed to the “Offshore lobster and Jonah crab Integrated Fisheries Management Plan”, which reflects the inclusion of Jonah crab as a directed offshore fishery with a TAC and licence allocations. The Offshore Lobster and Jonah Crab Advisory Committee (OLJCAC) is the consultative forum for all issues affecting the offshore lobster and Jonah crab fishery. Meetings of this committee are open to the public. The OLJCAC membership list and terms of reference are attached as Appendices 1 and 2. The committee is chaired by a representative of DFO and will provide direction to the Offshore Lobster and Jonah Crab Management Board.

1.4.2. Offshore lobster and Jonah crab management board

Similarly, the name of the Management Board has been changed. The Offshore Lobster and Jonah Crab Management Board (OLJCMB) membership is comprised of licence holders and DFO personnel. The purpose of the OLJCMB is to oversee and direct the implementation of the offshore lobster and Jonah crab IFMP.

The terms of reference, which contain the functions and responsibilities of the OLJCMB, are contained in Appendix 3.

1.4.3. Fishery management

The overall management of this fishery is premised on principles of collaborative co-management. Public review and consultation remain part of the process in terms of both the scientific advice on the stocks and the management measures adopted. Surveillance approaches by the department are, of necessity, less open; however, where opportunities arise for co-operative monitoring, reporting and refining of methods, these will be used. Enhanced scientific, management and surveillance measures may be adopted during the period of this IFMP via joint DFO-industry approaches which may involve cost-sharing.

Specific controls to limit harvesting to ensure sustainability of this fishery, and the adjacent inshore fishery, are used. Where possible, these are adjusted to reflect the economic objectives of the industry, such as with the change in fishing season. The individual management measures are outlined in a later section of this plan.

2. Stock assessment, science and traditional knowledge

2.1. Biological synopsis for lobster

2.1.1. Lobster Biology

Lobsters, like shrimp and crabs, belong to a group of animals called crustaceans. They have their skeleton on the outside of their bodies (exoskeletons) and must shed it to grow, a process called moulting. Very young lobsters moult 3-4 times a year, increasing 50% in weight and 10-15% in length with each moult. In the Gulf of Maine, lobsters take 8 or more years to reach legal size at 82.5 mm carapace length (CL). At that size, they weigh approx. 0.45 kg (1 lb) and moult once a year. Larger lobsters moult less often, with a 1.4 kg (3 lb) lobster moulting every 2-3 years. The largest lobster ever reported was 20 kg (44 lb), estimated to be 40-65 years old.

Off southwestern Nova Scotia, lobsters mature between 95 and 100 mm CL at an average weight of 0.7 kg (1.5 lb). The mature female mates after moulting in midsummer, and the following summer produces eggs that attach to the underside of her tail. The eggs are carried for 10-12 months and hatch during July and August. The larvae spend 30-60 days feeding and growing near the surface of the water before settling to the bottom and seeking shelter. For the first 2-3 years, lobsters remain in or near their shelter to avoid the small fish that feed on them. As they grow and have less chance of being eaten, they spend more time outside the shelter. At this point, they become more catchable by lobster traps.

2.1.2. Lobster distribution

Lobsters are found in coastal waters from southern Labrador to Maryland, with the major fisheries concentrated in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Gulf of Maine. Though lobsters are most common in coastal waters, they are also found in deeper, warm water areas of the Gulf of Maine and along the outer edge of the continental shelf from Sable Island to off North Carolina. Lobsters make seasonal migrations, moving to shallower waters in summer and to deeper waters in winter.

Lobsters are present in the offshore areas of the western Scotian Shelf and Georges Bank due to the presence of the warm slope water, which keeps the slope and deep basins in the Gulf of Maine warm year-round. This warm deep water is not found on the eastern Scotian Shelf, in the Gulf of St Lawrence or off Newfoundland.

Lobster stock structure in the Gulf of Maine remains unknown. The current hypothesis is that the Gulf of Maine lobster population can be viewed as a metapopulation, which means there are a number of sub-populations linked by movements of larvae and adults; however, the nature and degree of these linkages is not known. The natural boundaries of these sub-populations is not known and do not correspond to the 50-mile offshore lobster boundary line.

Larvae and adults are exchanged between areas but this does not necessarily imply a dependency of 1 area on another. Information available at present is insufficient to either support or disprove the existence of a definite linkage between lobsters on the offshore banks (Browns and Georges) and the large near-shore populations. It has been suggested that if a link does exist it would most likely be through exchange of larvae from Browns Bank and not from Georges Bank or the upper slope of the Scotian Shelf. Modeled larval drift shows strong dependence upon the vertical and horizontal release positions. Wind direction has an important effect on the particle drift tracks, especially those particles released within the top 5 m. The model does not yet include realistic time-dependent winds and possesses limited ability to describe life history strategies of the lobster larvae including vertical migration or possible directional swimming of stage IV larvae.

2.1.3. Lobster migrations and depth preferences

Legal sized lobsters make seasonal migrations to shallower waters in summer and deeper waters in winter. Over most of their range, these movements vary from a few km to 20 km. However, in the Gulf of Maine, the outer continental shelf some lobster undertake long distance migrations of tens to hundreds of km. Tagging studies have shown that at least some of these lobsters return to the same area each year. Offshore lobster tagging shows seasonal migrations from the upper continental slope and outer basins of the Gulf of Maine onto the outer edge of the shelf to the shoals of Browns Bank and Georges Bank. Migrations may be undertaken to optimize the temperature to which lobsters and their eggs are exposed, to avoid shallow water during stormier winter periods and to migrate to areas optimal for hatching eggs and either retention or export of larvae. The triggers for these migrations are not certain.

Extensive published literature on lobster movement, as revealed by mark-recapture techniques, contributes to our present understanding of lobster stock structure in the Gulf of Maine. Most published studies have used broad size categories (e.g., <95mm; > 95mm CL) to analyze movement. Long-distance movements of greater than 50 nautical miles (92.6 km) are generally restricted to large lobsters and may involve recaptures up to 5 years following release.

There is evidence for along-shore movement in the nearshore, as well as for dispersal from nearshore and midshore release sites off SWNS, and from the Bay of Fundy to offshore and US fishing grounds. Although 1 US tagging study showed significant movement occurred from Jordan Basin, but not Crowell Basin, into nearshore areas, there is generally little evidence for return movement to the nearshore following offshore dispersal. Seasonal movements between the tops of the offshore banks and deeper slope and basin areas occur, including indications of long-distance return movement within the offshore area.

The relevance of these historic movement studies to today’s lobster populations with much larger abundances and substantially different ecosystem pressures (temperature variability, predation pressure) are uncertain.

Quantitative estimates of exchange rates between different parts of the Gulf of Maine cannot be given at this time. The mark-recapture approach used in historical studies does not permit discrimination between residences and return migrations after lengthy periods at large, except where intervening recaptures of the same individual lobster are involved. The origin of the animals that are tagged in any 1 location is unknown and recaptures were obtained during commercial fishing. Determining the proportion of animals in the population that make long distance movements is confounded by regional difference in the reporting rate of recaptures and the fact that where local fisheries are intense, there is a low probability that legal-sized animals survive to move long distances. As the LFA 34 fishery is closed from June to November, summer movements would not be detected in these earlier studies.

2.1.4. Lobster reproductive potential

The offshore fishery has been managed conservatively in order to preserve a high reproductive capacity. The TAC and the closed area of Browns Bank spanning the inshore-offshore boundary were designed to preserve the reproductive potential of what has been perceived as a potential brood stock for the more intensively fished inshore fishing grounds; both LFAs 40 and 41 have relatively high proportions of large lobsters, as well as large female and berried female lobsters. This strategy appears to have been successful. The offshore size structure, with a high percentage of mature animals, has been preserved; the offshore landings have remained stable at or approximately equal to the annual TAC and information to date suggests the offshore fishery has had little to no discernible negative impact on the inshore fishery.

The median size of lobsters in the offshore catch is greater than the size at which 50% of the females mature (92 mm CL) and thus a high proportion of the females caught have had the opportunity to breed. This contrasts with the coastal inshore fisheries in Southwest Nova and the Bay of Fundy where the median size in the catch is below the size of maturity and only a small percentage has the opportunity to breed once.

While the reproductive potential of the offshore lobster has been preserved, the actual reproductive level and proportion of total egg production from Gulf of Maine complex remains unknown. More information on the lifetime egg production of females and overall population size is needed to determine this.

2.1.5. Size structure of the commercial lobster catch

The size structure has remained relatively stable on most of the fished area since the fishery began in 1972. In the 2017 LFA 41 stock assessment, there were indications of decreases in median size, largely owing to fewer large lobsters being captured. The catch from both the commercial fishery and the fisheries independent trawl survey is characterized by a small proportion of sublegal sizes of lobster. The source of benthic recruitment to LFA 41 remains uncertain.

The overall long-term stability in the size structure could be due to a combination of several factors including the fishery potentially having little impact on the population; the size structure may be a dynamic response to life history movements; and the stability, which is related to catchability and trap selectivity, may be masking changes in the population size structure.

2.2. Biological synopsis for Jonah crab

2.2.1. Jonah crab biology

Very little biological information exists for Jonah crab in waters off Nova Scotia. Knowledge of Jonah crab life history is geographically limited to waters off New England and Chesapeake Bay, Virginia. In Norfolk Canyon, off the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, males are mature at 90-100 mm CW and female Jonah crabs mature at 85 mm CW. Preliminary analysis of Jonah crab maturity on the Scotian Shelf has shown that morphometric (functional) maturity of 50% of the males examined occurred at 128 mm CW. This size at maturity is much larger than the previous assumption of 110 mm CW. The estimated size of 50% maturity for females occurred at 92 mm CW.

Males can reach a maximum CW of approximately 180 mm with a weight of 0.9 kg. Females usually do not exceed 150 mm CW and 0.5 kg in weight. Ovigerous females as small as 65 mm CW have been reported on the Scotian Shelf. Ovigerous females have been found during August and September in Maine and in mid-July in Narragansett Bay. The spawning period in the Middle Atlantic Bight is suggested to be during late winter to early spring.

2.2.2. Jonah crab distribution

Jonah crab can be found from Newfoundland to Florida and in the Bermudas at depths ranging from the intertidal to 800 m. Off Nova Scotia the crabs are found primarily at depths of 50-300 m and temperatures of 8-14 oC. The habitat occupied by Jonah crab changes along its geographical range from rocky substrates in Narragansett Bay and off the coast of Maine, to silt and clay off the continental slope. Inshore movement from spring through fall, followed in winter by emigration to deeper, warmer waters have been reported off Rhode Island. Size and sexual segregation with depth were reported in Norfolk Canyon where smaller-sized (<30 mm CW) females were dominant at depths less than 150 m and males were most abundant at depths over 150 m.

2.3. Interactions with other species and fisheries

2.3.1. Lobster

Lobsters co-occur with other crustaceans of commercial value, most notably Jonah crab (Cancer irroratus), rock crab (Cancer borealis) and deep sea red crab (Chaceon quinquedens). While Jonah crab co-occur in shallower waters and are either caught as a directed fishery or as a bycatch of lobster fisheries, red crab generally exist in greater water depths than commercial lobster distributions and rarely make up a significant portion of bycatch.

During their first 4 to 5 years, lobsters remain in or near their chosen shelter to avoid predation. Small lobsters are preyed upon on by many fish species including sculpin, cunners, skate, crabs and other opportunistic feeders. Larger lobsters are safe from all but the largest predators; however, all lobsters are most vulnerable immediately following the moult when their shell remains soft.

Lobsters are both active and opportunistic feeders. They catch live fish, feeding on crabs, clams, mussels, scallop, various gastropods, marine worms, sea urchins, starfish and small amounts of marine plants. They scavenge on dead fish and other organisms.

2.3.2. Jonah crab

Jonah crab co-occurs with other crustaceans of commercial value, most notably lobster, with some overlap with deep-sea red crab and snow crab. Deep-sea red crabs generally occur in waters deeper than commercial Jonah crab distributions and rarely make up a significant bycatch.

Little is known about predators of Jonah crabs. At small sizes they are preyed upon on by many fish species including sculpin, cunner, skate, lobsters, other crabs and other opportunistic feeders. Larger crabs would have fewer predators. At all sizes they are most vulnerable immediately following the moult while their shell is still soft.

The Jonah crab mainly feeds on shellfish such as mussels, snails and barnacles, whose shells are easily crushed by the claws, echinoderms and polychaetes. They will also scavenge on dead fish or leftovers from lobsters or other predators.

2.4. Stock assessments

2.4.1. Lobster

DFO’s Centre for Science Advice – Maritimes (CSAM), located in Dartmouth, coordinates the development and peer review of science advice on major stocks and fisheries in Maritimes Region, including offshore lobster. Members of the public with expert knowledge of stocks and fisheries are often invited to participate, including members from the fishing industry, Indigenous communities, academia and provincial governments. Regional CSAM publications are available on the DFO’s National Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) website.

Full stock assessments for the LFA 41 lobster stock are conducted approximately every 5 years, with shorter, stock status updates provided in the intervening years. Stock assessments are based on lobster catch and effort data from multispecies trawl surveys, commercial logbooks and observer data, as well as various data sets that provide information about broader ecosystem changes, such as changes to water temperature, habitat and predator abundance. Stock assessments are typically preceded by a framework assessment, which is an indepth review of the data and methods used to conduct the stock assessments. The last full stock assessment was completed in 2017 (SAR 2018-004) and the last framework assessment in 2017 (Res Doc 2017/065).

2.4.2. Jonah crab

Jonah crab in LFA 41 is considered a small scale fishery. The last stock assessment of Jonah crab in the offshore was completed by DFO Science in 2009 (SAR 2009/034). The assessment considered data from commercial logbooks, at-sea sampling of the commercial catch and DFO research vessel surveys.

In 2012, DFO Maritimes Region adopted a policy for small scale fisheries wherein the industry is responsible for developing the science needed to support fisheries management decisions (“Priority Setting Protocol for Fishery Assessment and Management: Primary and Secondary Stocks in Maritimes Region”). CSAS and its regional offices (e.g., CSAM) remain responsible for coordinating the peer review of the industry-led science.

2.5. Precautionary approach for lobster

2.5.1. Policy requirements

In 2009, DFO adopted A fishery decision-making framework incorporating the precautionary approach (PA Policy) as a component of the Sustainable Fisheries Framework. The PA in fisheries management is, in general, about being cautious when scientific knowledge is uncertain, unreliable or inadequate and not using the absence of adequate scientific information as a reason to postpone or fail to take action to avoid serious harm to the resource. This approach is widely accepted as an essential part of sustainable fisheries management. The primary components of the PA framework are stock status indicators and reference points; a harvest strategy, including removal references (the maximum acceptable removal rates for the stock); harvest control rules; and explicit consideration of uncertainty and risk.

2.5.2. Primary indicators and reference points

The elements of the PA framework in each fishery should be based on the best available science and improved on over time. To date there have been no modelled estimates of biomass or maximum sustainable yield reference points developed for the lobster stock in LFA 41. Biomass dynamic modelling has been explored, but results were found to be insufficient for defining stock status zones and reference points. The components of the PA framework for LFA 41 have therefore been developed using data driven approaches.

Currently, the status of the lobster stock in LFA 41 is assessed using 2 primary indicators of stock health: survey biomass and reproductive potential. The reference points defining the healthy, cautious and critical zones – the Upper Stock Reference Point (USR) and the Limit Reference Point (LRP) – are based on the combined information of survey biomass indices from 4 fisheries independent surveys (see below). Stock status zones are not defined for reproductive potential. Reproductive potential is tracked independently from survey biomass and is intended to signal potential changes in future stock productivity.

The 2 primary indicators are based on fishery independent data from 4 ecosystem trawl surveys that overlap with the LFA 41 fishing grounds. 2 of the surveys are conducted by DFO, the Summer Research Vessel (RV) Survey and the Georges Bank Survey. The other 2 are the autumn and spring surveys conducted by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in the United States. Only the data from survey stations that fall within LFA 41 are used.

Survey biomass

Each of the 4 ecosystem surveys provides an index of commercial lobster biomass. The commercial biomass indices are considered together to determine the overall health of the LFA 41 stock.

An index of commercial biomass is first calculated separately for each survey. 3-year running medians are used to compare current biomasses to reference indicators. The “limit reference indicator” (LRI) is considered an indicator of low commercial biomass and is defined as the median of the 5 lowest non-zero biomasses in each time series. The “upper stock indicator” (USIs) is considered an indicator of high commercial biomass and is defined as 40% of the median of a high productivity period for LFA 41 (the period from 2000 to 2015). The LRI and USI values are shown in Table 3 for each survey.

The overall health of the LFA 41 stock is then determined by considering the commercial biomasses from each of the 4 survey indices relative to their respective LRIs and USIs. For the stock to be considered above the USR and in the Healthy Zone, the commercial biomass indices for at least 3 of the 4 surveys must be above their USIs. For the stock to be considered below the LRP and in the Critical Zone, the commercial biomass indices of at least 2 of the 4 surveys must be below their LRIs. Stock status zones and reference points are summarized in Table 4.

Table 3: Upper stock and limit reference biomass indicators (in tons) for each ecosystem survey.
Median of the 5 lowest non-zero biomass in the time series
40% of the median of the higher productivity period (i.e. 2000-2015)
DFO summer RV 0.03645597 0.4998207
DFO winter RV 0.02637868 0.1497909
NEFSC autumn 0.2024022 3.185755
NEFSC autumn 0.1952266 1.676672
Table 4: Stock status zones and upper stock and limit reference points.
Zone Reference points
Healthy USR 3 of 4 survey biomasses are above their respective USIs
Cautious - 2 or more survey biomasses are below their respective USIs or
3 or more survey biomasses are above their respective LRIs
Critical LRP 2 or more survey biomasses are below their respective LRIs

Reproductive potential

Reproductive potential has long been considered an important component of lobster stock productivity that is in need of protection; and although this may be more important for the inshore lobster fisheries, which are largely recruitment fisheries, the LFA 41 lobster stock is predominated by large female lobsters and, as a result, may constitute a significant proportion of total egg production to the Gulf of Maine lobster complex.

Reproductive potential consists of an integrated index from the 4 surveys that combines female abundance at size, fecundity at size and size at maturity. As such, it represents an estimate of total eggs produced within the stock area. It can also be viewed as a surrogate for spawning stock biomass. An upper boundary (UB) and lower boundary (LB) have been set (where sufficient data is available) to help gauge the significance of changes in egg production. The UB is defined as 40% of the median of the higher productivity period. The LB is defined as the median of the 5 lowest non-0 biomasses. Values are presented in Table 5.

Table 5: Upper and lower boundaries for reproductive potential (in millions of eggs).
40% of the median of the higher productivity period (2000-2015)
Median of the 5 lowest non-zero biomasses
DFO summer RV 8.559254 Not defined
DFO winter RV Not defined Not defined
NEFSC autumn 16.19203 2.010449
NEFSC spring 19.95509 1.28448

2.5.3. Contextual indicators

A suite of contextual indicators is explicitly included in full stock assessments to help with interpreting changes in the primary indicators. The contextual indicators – 38 in total – are a combination of biological and ecological information. They are made directly comparable through statistical standardization and are evaluated using a principal component analysis. The indicators provide information on changes in lobster size (median and maximum), abundance and reproductive potential; lobster distribution and habitat; water temperature; and predator abundance. Specific reference levels are not required for the contextual indicators and could be misleading if set.

2.5.4. Removal references

Removal references have not been established. The long-term and conservative TAC in LFA 41, which has remained constant despite large increases in survey biomasses, has made it difficult to define the impact that fishing has on lobster productivity. As a result, estimates of removal references using currently available data would be highly uncertain and could not be used to provide advice on the harvest. Nevertheless, under current conditions, the 720 t is considered to be well below the maximum acceptable level of removals and therefore consistent with the PA Policy.

2.5.5. Uncertainty and risk

There are uncertainties in the level of population connectivity between the offshore LFA 41 and the inshore SWNS as well as the broader Gulf of Maine complex. Adult movement observations and larval dispersal models suggest connections do exist between adjacent lobster areas and LFA 41 does not represent a closed population. The level of connectivity and the implications to surrounding lobster stocks are unknown and the consequences of high exploitation rates are not known. The current TAC appears to be low relative to the survey biomass indices. Moreover, under the constant TAC since the mid-1980’s the LFA 41 lobster stock biomass has increased substantially, suggesting it represents a precautionary harvest strategy given current environmental conditions.

The impacts of climate change on lobster population productivity and dispersal are not known and may be influential in altering population processes across the lobster’s natural range.

2.6. Precautionary approach for Jonah crab

There are no stock status indicators nor reference points for offshore Jonah crab and stock status is unknown. Given that the current level of exploitation is very low, developing indicators and reference points is not a priority at this time.

The science assessment from 2009 suggested there had been a decline in the status of Jonah crab in LFA 41 (4X + 5Zc) since the start of the directed fishery and concluded that the 1995 TAC of 720 t was not sustainable. The TAC has since been reduced to 270 t on a precautionary basis and in the absence of current science advice.

2.7. Research

2.7.1. Lobster

DFO Science’s research priorities for lobster are determined based on the needs of both the offshore and the inshore lobster fisheries across the Maritimes Region. The current focus of lobster-related science is on completing framework assessments for each of the LFAs and making progress on stock status indicators and reference points. Given recent advances in stock status indicators and references points for LFA 41, no pressing research or assessment needs have been identified for lobster in LFA 41 at this time.

Research needs are reviewed and discussed during framework assessments (see Sub‑section 2.4.1).

2.7.2. Jonah crab

During the period of 2000 to 2002, the offshore Jonah crab licence holders conducted extensive experimental surveys for lobster and Jonah crab under the auspices of the Emerging Fisheries Policy, 2001 in NAFO Division 4W to the 61° 21’ West meridian. The experimental Jonah crab surveys involved 75 trips during a 3-year period, and were conducted with the direct participation of the licence holders in association with DFO Science and Fisheries Management employees.

The survey project temporarily ceased in the fall of 2002 when Jonah crab catch rates declined to a level experienced by the 4X offshore Jonah crab fishery.

The detailed results and recommendations resulting from the 3-year experimental surveys are documented in the Javitech Ltd. report, Review and Analysis of the Offshore Jonah Crab Fisheries in Division 4W During 2000 to 2002.

DFO remains committed to supporting the recommendations derived from the Javitech report through the continuation of the experimental surveys in NAFO Division 4W with the offshore Jonah crab licence holders.

The future resumption of these surveys in LFA 41 - 4W is anticipated to occur when catch rates in the 4X area indicate improvement beyond those experienced in recent years. However, the priority would be to develop a monitoring and assessment framework for the current fishery in 4X/5Z.

2.7.3. Other research areas

Another area of research important to this IFMP is understanding the impacts of different soak times on the catch of target and non-target species (see Section 4).

The department supports industry efforts to explore fishing technologies and methods that would maintain an active fishing industry while also reducing the risk of whale entanglements. As part of this support, DFO is working with industry-led pilot projects across several fisheries to test the application of new gear technologies, such as ropeless gear. If successful, some of these initiatives could help reduce the amount of rope in the water in fixed gear fisheries and thereby future entanglement risks to whales.

3. Social, cultural and economic importance of the fishery

3.1. Lobster and the Atlantic fishery

In 2016, commercial fishery landed value for DFO Atlantic regions (Maritimes, Gulf, Quebec and Newfoundland & Labrador) totaled $3.0 billion. Maritimes Region accounted for 46% of this total and lobster accounted for 44% of the total landed value across all Atlantic regions. Within DFO Maritimes Region, lobster landings from all LFAs combined (LFAs 27-41) accounted for approximately 62% of the total landed value.

Figure 3 shows 2016 commercial landed value by DFO region and major species. Maritimes Region lobster landed value was approximately $833 million (similarly in 2017, data preliminary) and was the dominant value species in the region. Lobster was also the main value species in Gulf Region.

Graphic illustrating landed value by major species by DFO Atlantic Region (2016)

Figure 3: Landed value by major species by DFO Atlantic Region (2016).


Figure 3: This chart shows the landed value of major species by DFO Atlantic region.

For additional information about the social and economic importance of the lobster fishery in Maritimes Region, see inshore lobster Integrated Fishery Management Plan, Lobster Fishing Areas 27 – 38.

3.2. Historical landings in LFA 41

Table 6 and Figure 4 summarize the historical catch information for the LFA 41 fishery. They provide the landings on an annual basis, either by seasonal or by calendar year, depending on the source of the data (see “Notes” appended to the table). In some years, the TAC was not fully caught; this was likely due to logistics of harvesting operations and not lobster abundance, i.e. the fishing effort was likely relatively low.

Table 6: Historical landings from the offshore (4X5) lobster and Jonah crab fisheries.
Year 1971-80*
1990-94** 1994-95** 1995-96** 1996-97** 1997-98**
Lobster TAC - - 720 720 720 720 720
Lobster 504 569 640 723 722 673 621
Jonah crab       39 356 708 702
Year 1998-99** 1999-00** 2000-01** 2001-02** 2002-03** 2003-04** 2004-05***
Lobster TAC 720 720 720 720 720 720 1008
Lobster 590 720 718 726 718 721 1008
Jonah crab 698 690 727 597 313 172 119
* Annual = Jan-Dec.
** Season landings = Oct. 16-Oct. 15
*** Quota increase due to season changes.
Graphic illustrating historical landings from the offshore (4X5) lobster and Jonah crab fisheries

Figure 4: Historical landings from the offshore (4X5) lobster and Jonah crab fisheries .
Note: 2004-05 quota increase was due to change in season


Figure 4: This charts shows the historical landings from the offshore (4X5) lobster and Jonah crab fisheries along with the TAC, where applicable.

Canadian offshore lobster landings increased in 1985-86, following the removal of American effort from Canadian fishing grounds and the introduction of the higher TAC. During this period, the introduction of larger vessels increased the fleet’s fishing agility, enabling vessels to operate in more than 1 area during a trip and the flexibility to move trap gear between the areas in response to changing catch rates.

The downturn in quota year landings for offshore lobster in 1997-98 and 1998-99 corresponded to a period when cold Labrador slope water extended down the slope and into the basins. During the autumn of 1997 and winter of 1998, the warm slope waters adjacent to the continental break along the Scotian Shelf and the Gulf of Maine was replaced by a colder and less saline water mass known as Labrador Slope Water. Temperatures dropped by 2-4 degrees Celsius along the slope, depending upon location and depth. By March of 1998, the colder Labrador Slope Water had been traced beyond the southern flank of Georges Bank. Catch rates in the offshore lobster fishery declined during this period of time but recovered when the warm slope waters returned in late 1999. The cold water events are related to a large oceanographic event called the North Atlantic Oscillation. Throughout the 1970-90’s warm water conditions have prevailed, but during the 1960’s there was an extended period of cold water temperatures in the basins of the Gulf of Maine.

Landings of Jonah crab rose rapidly during the 1995-96 and 1996-97 seasons and overall landings remained high until 2000-01 (698-751 t). Landings began to decline in 2001-2002 and were 172 t in 2003-04.

3.3. Current landings in LFA 41

Lobster landings from LFA 41 (4X5) from 2007 to current years are presented in Figure 5, along with the lobster TAC. As shown, the TAC has been constant at 720 t over this time period. The annual variability in landings reflects the flexibilities authorized for managing quota overruns and uncaught quota over more than 1 season. For a description of current quota management rules in the offshore lobster fishery, see Section 7.

Graphic illustrating recent lobster landings from the offshore lobster fishery

Figure 5: Recent lobster landings from the offshore lobster fishery.


Figure 5: This chart shows LFA 41 lobster landed weight with the LFA 41 Total Allowable Catch for the period 2007 to 2018, with the latest years’ data as preliminary.

3.4. Markets and economics

The stabilized TAC and EA program improved the investment climate for vessel replacement and provided companies with flexibility to optimize their harvesting and marketing operations.

EAs have demonstrated that, over time, conservation and economic benefits can be achieved as fleet fishing capacity, effort and costs are balanced with the long-term average yield of the resource.

A positive impact of the EA program was a reduction in fishing effort by the offshore lobster fleet. From 1984 to 1993, there was a steady reduction in the number of vessels used and a downward trend in the number of days fished per year by the offshore lobster fleet. A reduction in the number of vessels and the total number of traps deployed further declined in the 2000s as greater efficiency was brought into the fishery.

4. Management issues

4.1. Protection of Browns Bank

The closure of Browns Bank in 1979 was originally intended to protect lobster brood stock believed to occur on Browns Bank. In the absence of a science assessment the conservation benefit of the closure is not qualified; however, during the LFA 41 framework assessment, the Browns Bank closed area was identified as possessing high lobster densities during summer months. Collaborative dialogue through the OLJCMB and OLJCAC can be used to implement surveys to assess impact of other fisheries in this area.

4.2. Continuation of co-management approaches

The results of the collaborative co-management approach includes stability of access, flexibility in terms of catch, minimal conflicts with other fishing fleets and cooperation on scientific initiatives. This plan will ensure the continuation of these collaborative measures and enhance, where possible, the potential to conduct additional research and monitoring initiatives through the use of joint project agreements.

4.3. Marine conservation targets

In October 2017, the Government of Canada announced that it had reached its first milestone of protecting 5% of marine and coastal areas. The federal government remains committed to protecting 10% of Canada’s marine and coastal areas by 2020. The 2020 target is both a domestic target (Canada’s Biodiversity Target 1) and an international target as reflected in the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Aichi Target 11 and the United Nations General Assembly’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development under Goal 14. The 2017 and 2020 targets are collectively referred to as Canada’s marine conservation targets. For more information on the background and drivers for Canada’s marine conservation targets, visit Meeting Canada’s marine conservation targets.

To meet these targets, Canada is establishing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and other effective area-based conservation measures (other measures, also known as marine refuges), in consultation with industry, non-governmental organizations and other interested parties. See Marine protected areas (MPAs), areas of interest (AOIs) and other measures for an overview of these tools, including a description of the role of fisheries management measures that qualify as other measures.

Specific management measures established for the offshore lobster and Jonah crab fisheries have been identified to contribute to Canada’s marine conservation targets. These management measures include The Gully Marine Protected Area  and several sensitive benthic area closures (see section 4.4) that are considered marine refuges.

4.4. Sensitive benthic areas

Canada is also committed, under United Nations Resolution 61/105, to protecting marine habitats that are particularly sensitive to fishing. A principal policy for meeting this commitment in Canadian waters is DFO’s Policy for Managing the Impacts of Fishing on Sensitive Benthic Areas (SBA Policy). The SBA Policy requires that mitigation measures be considered where there is a risk that bottom-contact fishing will cause serious or irreversible harm to ecologically or biologically significant areas. Currently, several important coral and sponge grounds in Maritimes Region are closed to bottom contact fishing under this policy. See Section 6.3 for a list of those that fall within LFA 41.

4.5. Gear tending

Under the Atlantic Fishery Regulations, gear has to be tended at least every 72 hours. Given the operational implications for some fisheries, the department is considering a change to the regulations that would provide for flexibility in the gear tending requirement where scientific studies have shown that the conservation objectives of a 72-hour maximum can be achieved through other means. Scientific studies are being developed for the LFA 41 fishery to examine the impact of longer soak times on the lobster catch and bycatch of other species. A policy framework will also need to be developed to outline the circumstances under which an alternative soak time would be approved across fisheries, assuming the regulation is amended.

4.6. Bycatch

4.6.1. Undersized lobsters

Lobsters less than 82.5 mm must be released. Minimizing the capture of undersized lobsters is desirable for the efficiency of the fishery as well as to minimize the stress and injury that may result from handling. To minimize the capture of undersized lobsters, all traps must be fitted with escape vents in the exterior wall of each parlour. The vents may also facilitate the escape of non-target species.

4.6.2. Non-target species

Several species of fish and crustaceans are caught as a bycatch in lobster trap fisheries. In LFA 41, incidentally caught rock crab may be retained, as can incidentally caught lobster and Jonah crab when licence holders are directing for the other species. All other bycatch must be returned immediately to the waters from which they were taken and in a manner that causes them the least harm.

DFO’s Policy on Managing Bycatch requires the systematic monitoring of fisheries on bycatch species. Bycatch amounts in the offshore lobster fishery have declined significantly over the past number of years. This likely results in part from a reduction in the footprint of the fishery over time and an increased focus on areas of highest lobster catch-per-unit-of-effort. Should bycatch amounts of any species become a concern, post-release survival studies may be undertaken and mitigation measures considered.

4.6.3. Species at risk

A number of marine species are considered to be at risk within Canada. Ensuring protection and promoting recovery of at-risk species is a national priority. To this end, Canada developed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and a number of complementary programs to promote recovery and protection of species considered to be extirpated, endangered, threatened or of special concern under SARA or identified as such by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).

SARA includes prohibitions that protect endangered, threatened and extirpated species (Section 32), their residences (Section 33) and their critical habitat (Section 58). Provided specific criteria can be met, SARA allows activities that would otherwise be prohibited to proceed through the issuance of permits or agreements under Section 73 and 74 or through exemptions under Section 83(4). The recovery of species at risk involves the development and implementation of recovery strategies, action plans or management plans and the protection of any critical habitat that has been identified as necessary for the survival or recovery of the species. For species listed as special concern, critical habitat is not identified and the Section 32 prohibitions do not apply.

The Government of Canada has listed several species on Schedule 1 of SARA. Within the Maritimes Region, the following are SARA-listed species for which there may be interactions with the offshore lobster fishery:

In accordance with Section 83(4) of SARA, lobster and Jonah crab licence holders are currently permitted to conduct their fishery, which may interact with the 2 wolffish species listed as threatened and the leatherback sea turtle listed as endangered, under the condition that any animals incidentally captured be returned to the water in a manner that causes the least harm possible. This permission is provided and described in each species’ respective recovery strategy, which may change over time. The Species at risk public registry contains up-to-date information.

Mandatory prohibitions do not apply to species listed as special concern. Therefore, licence holders do not need to receive SARA permits for fishery interactions with Atlantic wolffish or other special concern species.

There are currently no activities permitted under Section 83(4) of SARA as they relate to the North Atlantic right whale (NARW) nor northern bottlenose whale.

4.6.4. Marine mammals

Fishing can present a threat to marine mammals as a result of vessel strikes and entanglement in fishing lines. Standard operating procedures for setting and retrieving gear have been developed by the current licence holder to reduce the potential for entanglement. To reduce the risk of vessel strikes, in 2018 the department widened the open corridor that allows the LFA 41 fishing vessel(s) to transit closed, inshore areas so that the vessel operator has the option of circumventing Roseway Basin when NARWs are present. Roseway Basin, which is adjacent to the LFA 41 fishing grounds, has been designated as critical habitat for NARWs under SARA.

Dynamic closures are also being considered by the department for fixed gear fisheries to protect NARWs. In 2018, the department closed an area within Roseway Basin to fixed gear fishing for a period of 16 days because of the presence of NARWs. There were also 2 closures in 2018 to fixed gear fisheries in Grand Manan Basin, 1 for 16 days and the other for 30 days.

A conservation measure for protecting the endangered population of northern bottlenose whales and other marine mammals is The Gully MPA, established by the department in 2004. The Gully is a deep submarine canyon along the northeastern edge of the Scotian Shelf. It is home year-round to the northern bottlenose whale and it is an important habitat for 15 other whale species. Should the offshore lobster or Jonah crab fishery expand to the eastern portion of the Scotian Shelf, fishing within certain areas of The Gully would be prohibited in order to protect these whales from potential entanglement and vessel strikes.

Research is being undertaken in many fixed gear fisheries in Canada and abroad to better understand the risks that fishing activity presents to marine mammals and to develop innovations that will reduce the risk and/or severity of entanglements.

4.7. Ghost fishing

Traps lost at sea create a risk of ghost fishing (capture due to lost, dumped or abandoned fishing gear). To reduce this risk, all lobster traps must be fitted with biodegradable panels. In 2018, the department began systematically to collect data on lost fishing gear across all fisheries.

4.8. Gear conflict

Section 37(1) of the Atlantic Fishery Regulations, with respect to gear spacing, states that the master of a vessel with mobile gear shall maintain a distance of at least 1-half nautical mile between their vessel, including any mobile gear attached thereto and any previously set fishing gear.

To avoid potential gear conflict between licensed offshore lobster vessels, licence holders will ensure best efforts are consistently applied by their respective fishing vessels to avoid encroaching to within 3.0 nautical miles of other licence holders’ fishing gear.

Improved co-operation and communication remains the best solution to domestic gear conflicts. Should an incident occur involving competing licence holders, the licence holders will immediately convene a meeting, which may involve DFO, to resolve the dispute.

4.9. International issues

DFO and the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration endeavour to share commercial catch and scientific data for the benefit of fisheries management in both countries.

It is anticipated that information sharing with the US via established, co-operative, fisheries science and management channels may continue during the period of this Plan. Air surveillance will continue to monitor and report on both Canadian and American vessel compliance with the Hague Line.

5. Objectives

5.1. Long term

5.1.1. Objectives

The long-term objectives for this fishery are:

  1. to harvest at a conservative, sustainable level, based on sound scientific advice that will continue to protect the offshore lobster and Jonah crab resources;
  2. to harvest at a level that will continue to protect the adjacent inshore lobster stocks that may be biologically linked to the offshore stock(s);
  3. to protect the offshore lobster and Jonah crab fishery from exploitation pressures arising in adjacent LFAs (inshore Canadian and American), which may affect the LFA 41 fishery;
  4. to maintain the long-term financial viability of the existing fleet;
  5. to further increase industry’s level of participation in the management of this resource to benefit Canadians by actively including the industry in ongoing research and fishery management;
  6. to minimize any adverse environmental effects of the fishing methods in accordance with DFO’s Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management;
  7. to address other domestic considerations including:
    • the exploration of the lobster resources in the unfished portion of LFA 41 to determine whether there is a commercial abundance of lobster; and
    • the resolution of real and potential gear conflicts with other domestic fisheries.
  8. to address international considerations including:
    • the effects of direct and bycatch fisheries on offshore lobster and Jonah crab by various gear sectors on the US side of the Hague Line;
    • the assurance that the elements of the IFMP for LFA 41 will continue to support the marketing initiatives for offshore Canadian lobster wherever possible.

5.1.2. Management approaches

Conservation/sustainability of the LFA 41 resource

Licence holders have accepted the definition of conservation from the Fisheries Research Conservation Council (FRCC) in its 1995 report: “lobster conservation ensures that the fullest sustainable advantage is derived from the resource and that the resource base is maintained.”

The overall objective is to ensure the continuation of a biologically sustainable offshore lobster fishery in its traditional area off SWNS through scientifically-based management plans coupled with appropriate enforcement, monitoring and regulatory measures. To date, this has been accomplished without a scientific estimate of the fishable biomass.

Protection of adjacent inshore fisheries

An additional objective in managing the commercial offshore lobster fishery is to continue to protect adjacent lobster stocks, which may be biologically dependent on or interdependent with the LFA 41 lobster resources.

Although the management measures adopted for the offshore lobster fishery have included measures to protect the adjacent inshore fisheries, concern has been expressed relating to the potential impact of inshore effort along the line separating LFA 34 from LFA 41 in the offshore fishery. DFO will monitor the impact of both fisheries on 1 another and ensure the involvement of both the offshore and inshore fleets in discussions with respect to management of both fisheries.

The offshore fishery adopted the minimum legal size of 82.5 mm and agreed to return all v-notched females to the water.

Canada will continue to assess impacts on the transboundary offshore lobster resource on Georges Bank resulting from both US and Canadian effort adjacent to the Hague Line.

Maintain the long-term viability of the existing fleet

Future changes in the established offshore lobster and Jonah crab fishery shall ensure that the viability of the existing licences is not threatened (excepting for conservation needs related to stock protection). Should additional resource in LFA 41 be identified, on the commercial grounds or elsewhere, the OLJCMB will present recommendations to the OLJCAC for consideration.

Increased movement towards co-management of this fishery

Collaborative co-management will continue to be applied through the application of the OLJCMB and the OLJCAC.

Environmentally responsible fishing

The offshore lobster fishery will be conducted in accordance with the Fisheries Act and the Oceans Act and their respective regulations, applying the best fishing practices identified by DFO via the OLJCAC and the OLJCMB. This fishery will continue to incorporate ecological measures, such as trap designs, to minimize detrimental effects on stock conservation.

Other domestic considerations

  1. Recreational Fishery: There are no recreational elements involved in this fishery.
  2. Exploration for Commercial Quantities in Non-traditional Areas of LFA 41: Although the existing fishing grounds in LFA 41 (4X and 5Ze) represent the majority of known commercial areas for harvesting offshore lobster and Jonah crab, access to other areas in LFA 41 remains dependent upon agreement between the offshore licence holders and DFO.
  3. Gear Conflicts: Although the potential for gear conflict between the offshore lobster fishery and other Canadian fisheries remains, DFO encourages vessel operators to mark gear according to regulations, communicate regularly and sort out disputes amicably amongst themselves.

International considerations

International considerations include:

  1. marketing, where-as an estimated 95 % of the catch is exported to the US, European Economic Community and Japan; and
  2. harvesting, where-as the Canadian portion of the offshore lobster fishery on Georges Bank is considered transboundary with the US.

5.2. Short term

There are 5 overarching objectives that guide fisheries management planning in the Maritimes Region. They are guided by the principle that the fishery is a common property resource to be managed for the benefit of all Canadians, consistent with conservation objectives, the constitutional protection afforded Aboriginal and treaty rights and the relative contributions that various uses of the resource make to Canadian society, including socio-economic benefits to communities.

Conservation objectives

  1. Productivity: Do not cause unacceptable reduction in productivity so that components can play their role in the functioning of the ecosystem.
  2. Biodiversity: Do not cause unacceptable reduction in biodiversity in order to preserve the structure and natural resilience of the ecosystem.
  3. Habitat: Do not cause unacceptable modification to habitat in order to safeguard both physical and chemical properties of the ecosystem.

Social, cultural and economic objectives

  1. Culture and Sustenance: Respect Aboriginal and treaty rights to fish.
  2. Prosperity: Create the circumstances for economically prosperous fisheries.

The conservation objectives are those from the Maritimes Region’s framework for an ecosystem approach to management (EAM framework). They require consideration of the impact of the fishery not only on the target species but also on non-target species and habitat.

The social, cultural and economic objectives reflect the Aboriginal right to fish for food, social and ceremonial purposes. They also recognize the economic contribution that the fishing industry makes to Canadian businesses and many coastal communities. Ultimately, the economic viability of fisheries depends on the industry itself. However, the department is committed to managing the fisheries in a manner that helps its members be economically successful while using the ocean’s resources in an environmentally sustainable manner.

6. Strategies and and tactics

6.1. Productivity

6.1.1. Strategies and tactics

The harvest strategies for offshore lobster and Jonah crab are to keep fishing mortality moderate and to allow sufficient escapement from exploitation for spawning. These strategies are implemented through a combination of a TAC and biological/escapement measures. See Table 7.

In the lobster fishery, the TAC is 720 t. There is a minimum legal size of 82.5 mm; a mandatory release of berried and v-notched females; and the discretionary release of large (>2.73 kg) lobsters, soft lobsters and culls. The Browns Bank closure (LFA 40) also contributes to lobster productivity.

In the Jonah crab fishery, the TAC is 270 t. There is a minimum legal size of 130 mm (carapace width) and a mandatory release of all females.

In addition, all traps in both fisheries must be fitted with an escape vent in each parlour of the trap to facilitate the release of undersized animals. The escape vents must be located no more than 250 mm from the floor of the trap and must consist of at least 2 unobstructed, circular openings of at least 57.2 mm in diameter or 1 unobstructed rectangular opening of at least 44 mm high by 127 mm wide.

The exterior wall of each parlour must also be fitted with a biodegradable panel to reduce the risk of ghost fishing should the traps be lost at sea. If the traps are made of wire, the biodegradable panels must provide, when removed, an unobstructed opening not less than 89 mm high by 152 mm wide and they must be fastened to the trap with either untreated cotton or sisal twine (not exceeding 4.8 mm in diameter) or with uncoated ferrous metal wire (other than stainless steel and not exceeding 1.6 mm in diameter). Alternatively, the traps may be made of wood, in which case each parlour must have 2 softwood laths that are adjacent to each other and not treated with a wood preservative.

Table 7: Strategies and tactics for offshore lobster and Jonah crab.
Species Strategies Tactics
Lobster Keep fishing mortality moderate by ensuring, with a high level of probability, that reproductive capacity is amply maintained

TAC (720 t)
MLS (82.5 mm)
Discretionary release of large, soft and culls
Closed area / LFA 40
Escape vents
Biodegradable panels

Allow sufficient escapement from exploitation for spawning Release of berried and v-notched females
Jonah crab Keep fishing mortality moderate TAC (270 t)
MLS (130 mm)
Allow sufficient escapement from exploitation for spawning Release of all females

Table 8 lists the strategies and tactics that are in place to manage productivity risks to species that are landed in other fisheries, including rock crab, which may also be landed in the offshore lobster and Jonah crab fisheries.

Table 8: Strategies and tactics for other harvested stocks.
Species Strategies Tactics
Rock crab Allow sufficient escapement from exploitation for spawning Release of all females
Escape vents
Biodegradable panels
MLS (102 mm)*
Cod Keep fishing mortality moderate by maintaining weight of bycatch in the lobster fishery to within historic range Mandatory release
Escape vents
Biodegradable panels
Other harvested stocks Keep fishing mortality moderate

* The MLS applies to rock crab bycatch only when retained in the Jonah crab fishery. There is no MLS for rock crab when retained in the lobster fishery, because Section 55 of the Atlantic Fishery Regulations states: “Where a person is fishing for lobster in accordance with these Regulations, that person may, without a licence for crab fishing, retain any male rock crabs caught in his lobster traps” (emphasis added).

6.1.2. Harvest control rules for lobster

The 720 t TAC in the lobster fishery aims to ensure, with a high level of probability, that reproductive capacity is amply maintained. The TAC is likely to pose a minimal risk of causing the stock to fall into the Cautious Zone, as the stock has proven resilient to this level of removals across a broad range of biomasses. Although the minimum legal size (82.5 mm) is below the size at 50% maturity (92 mm), the median size-at-capture is currently above this threshold, suggesting a significant proportion of the females caught by the fishery will have had an opportunity to successfully reproduce.

Nevertheless, it is acknowledged that stock status may change, potentially as a result of factors other than fishing that might affect the health and productivity of the stock. Should primary indicators show that stock status has fallen into the Cautious Zone (i.e. if 2 or more of the survey biomasses are below their USIs), the OLJCMB will undertake the following management actions:

  1. Request that DFO Science, with support from industry and with reference to the reproductive and contextual indicators, identify whether there are factors (environmental, change in fishing strategy, change in data collection) that explain the change in survey biomass.
  2. Evaluate whether the 3-year quota flexibility measures (carry forward/back) should continue.
  3. Consider undertaking a stock assessment or science response earlier than would be scheduled in the typical 5-year cycle.
  4. Introduce management measures to reduce the removal rate in order to promote stock rebuilding to the Healthy Zone, if it is confirmed that the decline in the indicators is a real change in stock health. Actions will be established in consultation with industry, will be evaluated annually and will include at least 1 of the following:
    1. Size and sex controls (minimum size, window size, maximum size, v-notching);
    2. Area controls (closed areas);
    3. Landing controls (quota reduction).

Other actions may also be introduced.

If the stock is in the Critical Zone (i.e. if 2 or more of the survey biomasses are below their LRIs), the OLJCMB will take management actions described above to further reduce the removal rate in accordance with a stock rebuilding plan. Stock rebuilding will follow the guidance outlined by DFO in Guidance for the Development of Rebuilding Plans under the Precautionary Approach Framework: Growing Stocks out of the Critical Zone.

As outlined in the PA Framework, the primary objective of any rebuilding plan is to promote stock growth out of the Critical Zone (i.e. grow the stock beyond the LRP) by ensuring removals from all fishing sources are kept to the lowest possible level until the stock has cleared this zone. There should be no tolerance for preventable decline. This objective remains the same whether the stock is declining, stable or increasing.

Actions taken will be established in consultation with industry and will be evaluated annually for effectiveness and adjusted accordingly.

6.2. Biodiversity

Strategies and tactics are in place to prevent the fishery from causing an unacceptable reduction in biodiversity. These are summarized in Table 9.

Table 9: Strategies and tactics to protect biodiversity.
Species Strategies Tactics
Marine mammals Control unintended incidental mortality Gear setting and retrieval protocol
Avoidance of critical habitat (NARW)
Dynamic closures (NARW)
The Gully MPA (Northern bottlenose whales)
Leatherback turtles Control unintended incidental mortality Mandatory release
Escape vents
Biodegradable panels
Other bycatch

6.3. Habitat

Strategies and tactics have been developed to prevent the fishery from causing unacceptable modifications to habitat. These are summarized in Table 10.

Table 10: Strategies and tactics to protect habitat.
Species Strategies Tactics
Corals Manage area disturbed of significant coral habitat

Coral conservation areas

The Gully MPA
Groundfish habitat Manage area disturbed of groundfish habitat Western/Emerald Banks Conservation Area

3 coral conservation areas, which are closed to bottom contact fishing under the Fisheries Act and Sensitive Benthic Areas Policy, fall within LFA 41: the Corsair and Georges Canyons Coral Conservation Area, the Northeast Channel Coral Conservation Area and the Lophelia Coral Conservation Area. The 3 areas are considered marine refuges and count toward Canada’s marine conservation targets. The Gully MPA, established under the Oceans Act, also contains important concentrations of corals and certain zones of the MPA are closed to bottom-contact fishing for this reason. See this List of marine refuges for an overview of these conservation areas and associated objectives.

6.4. Culture and sustenance

There are currently no food, social nor ceremonial licences issued to Indigenous groups for lobster or Jonah crab in LFA 41.

6.5. Prosperity

Strategies and tactics that promote economic prosperity in the fisheries are summarized in Table 11.

Table 11: Strategies and tactics to protect habitat.
Species Strategies Tactics
Lobster and Jonah crab Maintain stability in access to resources and allocations Enterprise allocations
Lobster Offer flexibility in policy and licensing 3-year quota management cycle

7. Access and allocation

The Minister can, for reasons of conservation or for any other valid reasons, modify access, allocations and sharing arrangements as outlined in this IFMP in accordance with the powers granted pursuant to the Fisheries Act.

7.1. Sharing arrangements

7.1.1. Licences

Currently, the only access to the offshore lobster and Jonah crab fisheries is commercial access.

There are 8 commercial licences for each species. All licences are enterprise allocations.

Both fisheries are limited entry and the TACs are fully allocated. Therefore, no new entrants are being accepted and the only way to gain access to the fishery is to acquire 1 of the existing licences.

7.1.2. Licence reissuance

Licence holders may wish to sell their privilege to receive a licence and quota and request that the licence be reissued to another entity. Licence reissuance will be conducted within the framework established by the Commercial Fisheries Licensing Policy for Eastern Canada, 1996.

Currently, 1 licence holder has acquired 100% of the lobster and Jonah crab licences and quotas. However, and unless further exceptions are made by the Minister, future licence reissuance will be limited by an accumulation ceiling of 50% of the TAC for each species.

7.1.3. Vessels and crew

A single vessel may be operated under each licence. However, licence holders may request authorization to operate a second vessel.

An entity holding more than 1 licence may choose to fish its allocation with fewer vessels than originally licensed. Non-active vessels may be re-activated at the discretion of the licence holder.

Vessels must be >45’ length overall (LOA). The size of the vessel currently in use in the fisheries is in the range of 99’ to 140’.

The licence holder shall be responsible for the operation of the vessel. The vessel may be operated by a qualified captain and crew selected by the licence holder. All crew must be Canadian citizens or landed immigrants, or authorized to work in Canada under a work visa.

7.2. Lobster quotas and allocations

7.2.1. Allocations

Each lobster licence is allocated an equal share of the TAC, i.e. 12.5%.

In cases where more than 1 licence is held by the same entity, the quota allocation may be combined under a single licence for the sake of administrative efficiency. The licences and associated quotas may be split again should the holder of the licences wish to have 1 or more of the licences reissued to another entity.

Licence fees are payable annually on a per tonne basis, as prescribed by Schedule II, Section 17 (Part 2) of the Atlantic Fishery Regulations.

7.2.2. Quota transfers

Temporary quota transfers may be requested on an annual basis. At the end of the quota period, all temporary quota transfers revert to the original licence. There is no limit on temporary quota transfers.

Permanent quota transfers are not authorized without the transfer of the associated licence.

7.2.3. Quota management: Healthy zone

A 3-year quota management cycle is available to licence holders when the lobster stock is in the Healthy Zone.

A 3-year cycle begins on January 1st of 1 year and ends on December 31st of the third year following this. The total allocation for the 3 year period is 3 times the annual quota minus any operational overruns carried over from the previous quota period. For example, a 3-year quota management cycle beginning on 1 January 2013 would end on 31 December 2015. If the annual quota were 720 t, the total allocation for this 3-year period would be 2,160 t (3 x 720 t) minus any operational overruns carried over from 2012.

Within the 3-year quota management cycle, up to a maximum of 15% of the next year’s quota can be caught within each of the first 2 years of the cycle. For example, if the annual TAC were 720 t, then up to an additional 108 t may be caught within each of the first 2 years. At the end of the third year of the cycle, no more than 3 times the annual quotas (e.g., no more than 2,160 t) may be landed.

A small operational overrun of up to 22 t is allowed in the third year of the cycle and any such overruns are to be deducted from the quota of the first year of the new quota period on a 1-to-1 basis.

Uncaught quota during the first 2 years of the cycle may be carried over into the next year. However, at the end of the third year of the cycle, carry-over of uncaught quota into the start of a new cycle is limited to a maximum of 22 t.

7.2.4. Quota management: Cautious and critical zones

If the stock is in the Cautious Zone, there will be an evaluation of whether the 3-year quota management cycle should continue.

If the stock is in the Critical Zone, quota overruns and uncaught quota are managed under a 1-year quota management cycle. Uncaught quota may not be carried forward. A small operational overrun of up to 22 t is allowed. These overruns are deducted from the next year’s allocation on a 1-to-1 basis.

7.3. Jonah crab quota management

7.3.1. Allocations

Each Jonah crab licence is allocated an equal share of the TAC, i.e. 12.5%. Temporary quota transfers may be requested on an annual basis. At the end of the quota period, all temporary quota transfers revert to the original licence. There is no limit on temporary quota transfers.

Permanent quota transfers are not authorized without the transfer of the associated licence.

7.3.2. Quota management

Any retention of Jonah crab bycatch under the directed lobster licences is deducted from the Jonah crab TAC.

8. Monitoring and evaluation

8.1. Catch monitoring

Catch monitoring requirements are specified in licence conditions and are reviewed annually within the department and with the OLJCMB and OLJCAC.

8.1.1. Logbooks

Retained catch must be reported on commercial logs, which are submitted to dockside monitoring companies (DMCs) at the end of each fishing trip. The data from the logs is entered by the DMCs into the department’s commercial database (the Maritimes Region Information System). The data includes information on the weight and species of the catch and is therefore important for monitoring landings against quotas. It also includes information on effort, which, in combination with catch data (catch-per-unit-of-effort), is 1 of the contextual indicators used in the lobster stock assessment.

Fishing location from the commercial logs is used to examine spatial distribution (as a metric of evenness). It can also be used to help approximate the footprint of the fishery, which may be used to assess the risks the fishery presents to habitat, and entanglement risks to whales and sea turtles. Maps are also used to identify important fishing grounds, which is used in marine spatial planning and in analyses of the potential socio-economic impacts of area-based conservation measures (e.g., potential closures under the Sensitive Benthic Areas Policy).

Any catches of species at risk for which the licence holder has been issued an exemption or an incidental harm permit (currently leatherback sea turtles, northern wolffish and spotted wolffish) must be reported on a species at risk monitoring document and submitted to a DMC along with the commercial log.

In 2018 (2019 for the LFA 41 fishery), the department began introducing mandatory reporting in all fisheries of interactions between fishing activity and marine mammals and mandatory reporting of lost fishing gear. This information is reported electronically by licence holders directly to the department.

8.1.2. At-sea observer coverage

At-sea monitoring is carried out under DFO’s At-sea Observer Program. Data is collected by at-sea observers on retained and discarded catch of both the target and non-target species. The data is entered by at-sea observer companies into the department’s observer database (Industry Surveys Database).


The current target for observer coverage in the lobster fishery is 6 observed trips per year, which typically is greater than 10% of total annual trips. The framework involves sampling the first trip of the month in each of March, May, June, July, November and December. Coverage against targets is reported on in stock status updates and stock assessments and is reviewed annually by the OLJCMB and OLJCAC. The sampling framework itself is reviewed approximately every 5 years during framework assessments.

The scheduled observer deployments are considered adequate for describing the size distribution of the lobster captured during fishing operations. The data collected includes carapace size, sex, egg presence and stage, shell hardness, occurrence of culls and v-notches, the number of traps, location, depth and detailed information on size structure. The data provides contextual indicators for the stock assessment and provides a means of monitoring the performance of elements of the fishery, for example the following:

Non-target species

At-sea observer coverage is the principal data source for monitoring the potential impact of the fishery on non-target species. Estimates of the weight of bycatch by species is presented in stock status updates and reviewed annually by the OLJCMB and OLJCAC. Given variation in the number, timing, location and depth of samples from 1 year to the next, analyses are at a spatial scale that corresponds to the whole of the fishing grounds and estimates are provided in intervals of 3 years.

Previously, the bycatch estimates were generated using a ratio of observed catch to landed catch. This method assumed that bycatch would vary in proportion to lobster landings, which is likely not the case. Beginning in 2018, and reflecting advice provided during the 2017 framework assessment, the estimates are generated based on a proration of effort.

Jonah crab

Given that directed Jonah crab fishing is currently very low, a sampling framework for observer deployment has not been developed for this fishery. Licence conditions nevertheless provide for observer coverage and any coverage would follow trap sampling instructions developed by DFO Science for Jonah crab.

8.1.3. Dockside and electronic monitoring

Hails (in and out) are mandatory for every fishing trip and the offloading of the landed catch is subject to 100% dockside monitoring by DMCs.

Fishing vessels are required to have an electronic vessel monitoring system (VMS) in place, which allows the department to monitor the movement of the vessel. This can be important for monitoring compliance in the fishery with area closures and as a more precise data source for mapping the fishing footprint.

8.2. Management plan

The IFMP and licence conditions are reviewed annually at meetings of the OLJCMB and OLJCAC. These meetings occur at least annually. Different branches of DFO meet internally in advance of these to identify issues that may have arisen over the previous season and to identify items for discussion with partners and stakeholders.

The effectiveness of conservation strategies and tactics are reviewed mainly through science advisory processes and at meetings of the OLJCMB and OLJCAC. See Section 3 for an overview of the science advisory processes for lobster and Jonah crab.

Where the fisheries have the potential to be a significant source of bycatch mortality, the effectiveness of conservation strategies and tactics under the IFMP and any related rebuilding, recovery or action plans would be reviewed in the context of the science advisory processes for these other species and discussed at meetings of the OLJCMB and OLJCAC. The following plans are the main ones relevant to the offshore lobster fishery at this time:

Area-based strategies and tactics for protecting biodiversity and sensitive habitats, such as coral closures and Marine Protected Areas, are typically monitored and evaluated on an as-needed basis through broader, region-wide initiatives. Any issues that may be identified with implications for the offshore lobster or Jonah crab fisheries would be raised at meetings of the OLJCMB and OLJCAC.

Strategies and tactics for promoting prosperity are discussed and reviewed at meetings of the OLJCMB and OLJCAC.

9. Compliance plan

The following is a list of items and activities that Conservation and Protection Branch have identified as having potential concerns with lobster fisheries:

9.1. Enforcement strategies

The use of Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) for all vessels while operating in this fishery, combined with aerial surveillance and patrol vessel surveillance, will continue to be applied throughout this fishery.

Fishery officers may conduct periodic inspections to monitor compliance with the Fisheries Act, regulations and licence conditions. In addition, observer coverage may occasionally be employed to ensure compliance to operating provisions and scientific data requirements.

9.2. Enforcement action

Where circumstances warrant, those found in violation of the Fisheries Act, regulations and/or licence conditions, in respect to the offshore lobster and/or Jonah crab fisheries, may be prosecuted. In addition the department may recommend the courts suspend the licences, impose fines and forfeit proceeds from the illegal action and seized items.

Appendix 1: OLJCAC membership

Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Resource Management (Chair) Verna Docherty
Science Adam Cook
Science Cheryl Denton
Science Victoria Howse
Conservation & Protection C&P Supervisor, Shelburne
Oceans and Coastal Management Scott Coffen-Smout
Small Craft Harbours Nathalie Levesque
Partners and Stakeholders
FNC Quota Limited Partnership Catherine Boyd
FNC Quota Limited Partnership Christine Penney
Membertou Band Council Hubert Nicholas
LFA 33 Representative Jody Dedrick
LFA 34 Representative Robert Harris
Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture Adam Mugridge
Search and Rescue, Canadian Coast Guard Phil Walker
Transport Canada Mihai Balaban

Appendix 2: OLJCAC terms of reference


The Offshore Lobster and Jonah Crab Advisory Committee (OLJCAC) provides recommendations to Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) on the conservation, protection and management of the offshore lobster resource for Lobster Fishing Area 41. The committee will serve as the pre-eminent consultative forum for the management of the offshore lobster and Jonah crab fishery.


The OLJCAC will provide advice on annual fishing plans, regulatory measures, fishing seasons, licensing policies, size limitations, bycatch provisions and gear restrictions. It will make recommendations on annual total allowable catches, quotas, the administration of enterprise allocation programs and on the introduction of new fishing technologies into the fishery that may affect existing management measures.

The committee will give consideration to biological, marketing and other information as it affects the management of the resource.



Any changes to the structure and administration of the committee will be decided by the committee membership.


Ad hoc subcommittees/working groups can be established to review and assess specific policy options and management measures.


Meetings can be held throughout the Scotia-Fundy Sector. When feasible, meetings will be held at times and places convenient to the membership.


Members are responsible for their own expenses when attending OLJCAC meetings.

Operating procedures

No formal voting procedures will be applied. The OLJCAC will seek to operate on a consensus basis. Consensus is defined for the purposes of these terms of reference as general agreement amongst all OLJCAC members, including non-licence holder members and further requires that, as a minimum, the agreement of the licence holders is obtained at the time a decision or recommendation is made by OLJCAC.

In the event of an impasse being reached such that licence holders are of opposing views, the following resolution/mediation procedure will be followed:

  1. in the first instance, additional effort to achieve consensus will be made; failing that
  2. the licence holders will meet by themselves in an attempt to reach an agreement; failing that
  3. the license holders will meet with DFO and/or an independent mediator acceptable to the licence holders in an effort to seek a resolution; failing that
  4. DFO will mediate a final resolution.

Minutes of meetings

Minutes of the committee's meetings will be prepared and distributed by DFO. Draft minutes will be sent to OLJCAC members for review within a reasonable time frame. Second drafts of minutes will subsequently be mailed out or tabled for final approval at the next OLJCAC meeting.

DFO working group

The committee will be supported by a working group of DFO officials who will consolidate scientific, economic and management advice into draft fishing plans for the committee's consideration.

Number of meetings

This committee will meet at least once a year, shortly before the start of this fishery’s new licensing year. Additional meetings may be held as required.


Chairmanship - the committee chairmanship will be held by a DFO official acceptable to all interests. An industry co-chairman may be appointed at the discretion of committee members.

The OLJCAC shall be made up of representatives from each of the following:

In addition, DFO may require representation from each of the following sectors: Resource and Aboriginal Fisheries Management, Science, Conservation and Protection, Ecosystem Management, the Southwest Nova Scotia Area Office, Small Craft Harbours, the Canadian Coastguard and Transport Canada.

Appendix 3: OLJCMB terms of reference


The Offshore Lobster and Jonah Crab Management Board (OLJCMB) will oversee and direct the implementation of the offshore lobster and Jonah crab Integrated Fishery Management Plan (IFMP).

Functions and responsabilities

The Board will:


The board shall meet at least once a year and may meet as often as it deems fit. Meetings will be held in Nova Scotia.


Ad hoc subcommittees/working groups can be established to review and assess specific issues and management measures.

Voting procedures

No formal voting procedures will be established. The board will operate on a consensus basis.

Minutes of meetings

Preparation and distribution of the minutes of the board's meetings is to be the responsibility of the board chairperson.


Members are responsible for their own expenses.


If a member is unable to attend, an alternate may be nominated. The chair should be notified by that member as far in advance of the meeting date as possible.


The composition of the board's membership is outlined below. The members will appoint an industry chair for 2-year terms. The position of vice-chair shall be held by a mutually acceptable DFO official.


At its first meeting, the board will determine what constitutes a quorum for future meetings of the board, this to include at least 1 DFO official.

Appendix 4: List of amendments

Addition of precautionary approach May 2011
Amendment of precautionary approach to include indicators May 2013
Amendment of precautionary approach to include harvest control rules May 2014
Addition of Appendix V: Amendments May 2014

Various updates, corrections and edits throughout:

  • Outdated references to licence holders, quota shares and vessels
  • Clarifications to allocations and transfer rules
  • Updates to the quota management rules to reflect the 3-year cycle
  • Restructuring of sections related to the above 3 bullets
  • Correction to references to Jonah crab bycatch when directing for lobster
  • Correction to references to trap tagging
  • Clarification of the department’s intentions with respect to gear tending
  • Update to the harvest control rule
  • Updates to membership and terms of reference for the OLJCAC
Sept 2016


  • Restructuring of main sections and appendices
  • Updates to stock status indicators and reference points for lobster
  • Updates to lobster science and research
  • Updates to economic overview
  • Updates to international issues
  • Inclusion/elaboration of measures for marine conservation and
  • protection of sensitive benthic areas
  • Updates to issues related to bycatch, marine mammals and ghost fishing
  • Elaboration of monitoring and evaluation procedures
  • Other clarifications and edits
June 2019

Updates to licence holders:

  • Various updates to licence holder references
  • Update to Appendix 1: OLJCAC membership
August 2022
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