Lobster fishery – Areas 19, 20 and 21

Foreword

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American Lobster

(Homarus americanus)

The purpose of this Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP) is to identify the main objectives and requirements of the Lobster Fishery in areas 19, 20 and 21 and the management measures that will be used to achieve these objectives. This document also provides background information and information related to management of this fishery to staff of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), co-management boards established by law under the regulations on territorial claims (if applicable) and other stakeholders. This IFMP provides a common interpretation of the fundamental "rules" that govern sustainable management of fisheries resources.

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. 

Where DFO is responsible for the implementing obligation under land claim agreements or from Supreme Court judgments in relation to aboriginal rights, the IFMP will be implemented in a manner consistent with these obligations. In the event that an IFMP is inconsistent with obligations under land claim agreements, the provisions of the land claim agreements will prevail to the extent of the inconsistency.

This Integrated Fishery Management Plan was developed with fish harvesters from the lobster fishery areas 19, 20 and 21.

Maryse Lemire
Regional Director, Fisheries Management
Quebec Region

Table of Contents

List of acronyms

AFS
Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy
AICFI
Atlantic Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative
C&P
Conservation and Protection Directorate
CCG
Canadian Coast Guard
CHP
Conservation Harvesting Plan
CL
Carapace Length
CNESST
Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité au travail
CPUE
Cath per Unit Effort
CSAS
Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat
CSSP
Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program
DFO
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
FAO
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
FRCC
Fisheries Resource Conservation Council
FSC
Food, Social and Ceremonial
IFMP
Integrated Fisheries Management Plan
ISEAL
International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling Alliance
LFA
Lobster Fishing Area
LRP 
Limit Reference Point
MAPAQ
Ministère de l’Agriculture des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec
MFFP
Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs
MPA
Marine Protected Area
MSC
Marine Stewardship Council
NGO
Non-governmental Organization
NSERC
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
PA
Precautionary Approach
QMMERN
Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Response Network
RPPSG
Regroupement des pêcheurs professionnels du sud de la Gaspésie
SARA
Species at Risk Act
TC
Transport Canada
TEK
Traditional Ecological Knowledge
USR
Upper Stock Reference 
VMS
Vessel Monitoring System

1. Overview of the Fishery

This section of the Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP) for lobster in the Gaspé (LFAs 19, 20 and 21) provides a general overview of the fishery. The History section shows the different development phases the fishery has undergone. The overview of the fishery concludes by defining the current features of the fishery, such as types of fishery, participants, location of the fishery, fishery characteristics, governance, and the approval process.

1.1. History

Before the 1870s

With more than 500 direct participants and landings valued at roughly $27 million in 2016, the lobster fishery is a powerful economic driver for communities in the Gaspé.

Lobster harvesting in North America dates back to ancient times, over 10,000 years ago, when the ancestors of the Mi’kmaq settled in the coastal regions around the Gaspé and the maritime provinces east of the Saint John River, in what became the Mi’kma’ki, traditional Mi’kmaq territory (Canadian Encyclopedia, 1985). Mi’kmaq oral tradition, archaeological digs and the writings of early European explorers have confirmed that lobster (jakej, in Mi’kmaq) was part of this First Nation’s diet.

The Mi’kmaq, the People of the sea, traditionally formed a Nation that stood out for its unique relationship with marine resources. A semi-sedentary people, when milder weather came, they would leave the forests that had sheltered them during the harsh winter months to settle on the seashore. Marine invertebrates, relatively abundant and easy to harvest throughout the warmer season, were an important and constant companion to their diet, even though it primarily consisted of game and fish such as salmon, eel, smelt or even sturgeon (Martijn et al. 1986).

This is the maritime way of life that characterized the People of the sea at the time of their first contact with Europeans. In fact, a few explorers from across the Atlantic wrote about lobster harvesting by the Mi’kmaq in their journals. French explorer and trader Nicolas Denys mentioned in his 1672 account of his voyage that in addition to catching lobster for consumption, the Mi’kmaq used cleaned and polished lobster claws as tobacco pouches and even as pipes. As for the shells, they were used to make totems and jewellery. Catching these crustaceans did not require elaborate technology: most of the time, they were pulled from mud flats with a stick and then collected by hand or by spear (Martijn et al. 1986).

Struck by the abundance of lobster in the New World, European explorers also added it to their diet (Johnston 1991). In 1597, Captain Leigh wrote in his journal that Acadia had the greatest multitude of lobsters they had ever heard of: he would catch them with a little draw net (Brown 1869). In 1632, French missionary Gabriel Sagard wrote during his time in New France (1623-1624) that a few French fishers passing through the Gaspé were engaging in lobster fishing. Though lobster, like other mollusks such as oysters and mussels, was part of the North American settler’s diet, it was not until around 1870 that it began to be fished for commercial purposes in the Gaspé (Bélanger et al. 1981)

1870-2000

In the 19th century, when lobster was merely an alternative meal for coastal residents, serving as food mostly for the poor, prisoners or indentured servants, it became in high demand in urban markets in Great Britain and the United States (Johnston 1991). Around 1870, knowledge of canning technology, developed in the United States two decades earlier, allowed Gaspé fishers to reach these markets. The beginnings of the commercial lobster fishery in the Gaspé came about from this development, coupled with depleted lobster stocks in the United States, between Massachusetts and Maine. Quebec canneries, most of which were run by New England companies, boomed between 1871 and 1920. For nearly 15 years during this period, lobster was Canada’s third most valuable natural resource (Corrivault and Tremblay 1948).

The first known cannery opened in 1870 in Chaleur Bay. Sixteen years later, in 1886, there were 18 canneries in the Gaspé, between Carleton and Cap-aux-Os. In the 1890s, others canneries were established along the region’s northern coastline. Growing demand led to the harvesting of small lobsters, and this overharvesting had serious repercussions on stock health. From 1920 to 1940, factories closed one after another as a result of the decline in resource abundance. In 1941, there was only one lobster cannery left in the Gaspé (Bélanger et al. 1981).

After this period of intensive exploitation, landings in Quebec (Figure 1) experienced a long period of low abundance until the late 1970s.

In response to concerns about lobster overharvesting, the first management measures were developed, several of which still exist today, which makes it one of the earliest-regulated fisheries. In 1873, an order prohibited the harvest and processing of soft-shelled lobster and berried females weighing less than 1.5 pounds in the Southern Gulf. Over time, fishing seasons, minimum and maximum carapace sizes, and the number and sizes of gear also became regulated (DFO 2012).

Lobster fishery management as we know it today is the result of numerous initiatives implemented by both industry and DFO from the late 1960s onward after a century of rather variable and inconsistent management. Limited entry licensing was implemented in 1967 in Prince Edward Island and in 1968 in the rest of the Gulf Region to cap the number of licence holders, and, in 1976, three licence categories were created to reduce fishing effort while giving preference to “those who depended on the fishery for their livelihood” (DFO 2012).

In 1982, the Gulf Region was officially defined as an administrative region of DFO to manage the fisheries in the Gulf of St. Lawrence based on an ecosystem approach. This new region included parts of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland as well as the provinces of Quebec and Prince Edward Island. In 1984, Quebec was removed and made into its own administrative region (DFO 2012).

Figure 1: Historical lobster landings (thousands of tonnes) and values (millions of dollars) in Quebec by area between 1956 and 2016p

Source: DFO

Compilation: Strategic Services, DFO, Quebec Region

none
Description

Figure 1 presents landings (thousands of tonnes), and values (millions of dollars) in Quebec between 1956 and 2016p*.

Year Magdalen Islands Gaspé North shore Total
Landings (kt) Value (M$) Landings (kt) Value
(M$)
Landings (kt) Value
(M$)
Landings (kt) Value (M$)
1956 1.5 - 0.2 - 0.0 - 1.7 -
1957 1.2 - 0.2 - 0.0 - 1.3 -
1958 1.1 - 0.1 - 0.0 - 1.2 -
1959 1.3 - 0.1 - 0.0 - 1.4 -
1960 1.5 - 0.1 - 0.0 - 1.6 -
1961 1.4 - 0.1 - 0.0 - 1.5 -
1962 1.8 - 0.1 - 0.0 - 1.9 -
1963 1.6 - 0.1 - 0.0 - 1.7 -
1964 1.3 - 0.2 - 0.0 - 1.4 -
1965 1.3 - 0.2 - 0.0 - 1.5 -
1966 1.5 - 0.2 - 0.1 - 1.8 -
1967 1.3 - 0.1 - 0.1 - 1.5 -
1968 1.1 - 0.2 - 0.0 - 1.3 -
1969 0.9 - 0.2 - 0.0 - 1.1 -
1970 1.0 - 0.2 - 0.0 - 1.2 -
1971 0.9 - 0.2 - 0.0 - 1.1 -
1972 0.8 - 0.2 - 0.0 - 1.0 -
1973 0.9 - 0.1 - 0.0 - 1.0 -
1974 0.9 - 0.1 - 0.0 - 1.0 -
1975 1.0 - 0.2 - 0.0 - 1.2 -
1976 1.0 - 0.3 - 0.0 - 1.3 -
1977 1.1 - 0.3 - 0.0 - 1.4 -
1978 1.1 - 0.4 - 0.0 - 1.6 -
1979 1.4 - 0.5 - 0.0 - 1.9 -
1980 1.0 - 0.5 - 0.0 - 1.6 -
1981 1.2 - 0.5 - 0.0 - 1.8 -
1982 1.1 - 0.5 - 0.0 - 1.7 -
1983 1.2 - 0.8 - 0.1 - 2.1 -
1984 1.2 5.9 0.6 3.2 0.1 0.3 1.9 9.4
1985 1.5 7.7 0.6 3.2 0.1 0.6 2.1 11.4
1986 1.6 9.4 0.6 3.4 0.1 0.8 2.3 13.6
1987 1.9 13.1 0.6 4.1 0.2 1.1 2.7 18.3
1988 1.8 12.4 0.6 4.0 0.1 0.8 2.5 17.2
1989 2.4 13.8 0.7 4.3 0.1 0.7 3.2 18.8
1990 2.4 9.1 0.8 3.7 0.1 0.5 3.3 13.3
1991 2.7 13.7 0.7 4.3 0.1 0.6 3.5 18.5
1992 2.8 19.6 0.9 6.1 0.1 0.7 3.8 26.4
1993 2.6 18.0 0.9 6.1 0.1 0.9 3.6 25.0
1994 2.1 17.0 0.9 7.3 0.2 1.2 3.2 25.5
1995 2.2 23.1 1.1 10.9 0.1 1.3 3.4 35.4
1996 2.2 21.5 1.1 10.8 0.1 1.1 3.5 33.3
1997 1.9 19.9 0.8 7.9 0.1 1.4 2.8 29.2
1998 1.9 17.8 1.0 10.0 0.1 0.8 3.0 28.7
1999 1.9 21.4 1.1 12.0 0.1 0.9 3.1 34.4
2000 2.0 24.8 1.1 13.2 0.1 0.9 3.2 38.9
2001 2.2 28.4 1.0 13.6 0.1 1.0 3.3 43.0
2002 2.1 29.1 0.8 11.4 0.1 0.9 3.0 41.4
2003 2.1 28.0 0.9 13.2 0.1 0.8 3.1 42.0
2004 2.4 30.4 0.9 11.9 0.0 0.5 3.3 42.8
2005 2.4 33.2 0.8 10.9 0.1 0.7 3.2 44.7
2006 2.4 30.1 0.8 9.9 0.0 0.4 3.2 40.4
2007 2.4 32.3 0.8 11.2 0.1 0.6 3.2 44.2
2008 2.5 28.9 0.9 10.2 0.1 0.6 3.5 39.7
2009 2.6 23.3 0.8 8.2 0.1 0.6 3.5 32.0
2010 3.1 26.1 1.0 9.1 0.1 0.7 4.2 36.0
2011 2.7 27.6 1.0 9.7 0.1 0.7 3.7 37.9
2012 2.7 28.7 1.2 12.1 0.1 0.8 4.0 41.6
2013 2.8 24.9 1.4 13.8 0.1 0.6 4.3 39.3
2014 3.4 32.3 1.8 17.9 0.1 1.0 5.4 51.1
2015 3.6 46.4 2.1 25.8 0.1 1.7 5.9 73.8
2016p 2.6 37.7 2.3 32.8 0.2 2.5 5.1 73.0

* Preliminary

The decision to subdivide Lobster Fishing Area (LFA) 20 in the southern Gaspé into 20A and 20B (Figure 2) had positive repercussions that are still being felt. This decision stemmed from the need to restrict navigation throughout the area. Gradually, the other LFAs were subdivided as well. With local intervention made possible by the sub-area management approach, licence holders developed collective self-management and self-control reflexes. The sustained involvement of fishers was evident in their active participation in decisions involving the implementation of new measures to reduce the exploitation rate on lobster populations (RPPSG 2009).

Aboriginal fisheries

In 1990, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a landmark ruling in the Sparrow decision. The Supreme Court found that where an Aboriginal group has a right to fish for food, social and ceremonial purposes, it takes priority, after conservation, over other uses of the resource. The Supreme Court also indicated the importance of consulting with Aboriginal groups when their fishing rights might be affected. In response to this decision, and to provide stable fishery management, DFO developed the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy (AFS) in 1992. The AFS is applicable where DFO manages the fishery and where land claims settlements have not already put a fisheries management regime in place.

In 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada issued its ruling in the Marshall decision, which held that Peace and Friendship Treaties of 1760 and 1761 gave Mi’kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy First Nations in the Atlantic provinces and Quebec the right to hunt, fish and gather in pursuit of a “moderate livelihood.” DFO then implemented a number of programs to provide direction and assistance to facilitate the integration of First Nations communities affected by the decision into Atlantic Canadian fisheries. The Marshall decision affected 34 Mi’kmaq and Maliseet First Nations located in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Quebec. The Court reaffirmed that the federal government has the authority and responsibility for regulating the fishery, with conservation as the key consideration. In the Gaspé and Lower St. Lawrence, in the early 2000s, the Mi’kmaq communities of Listuguj, Gesgapegiag and Gespeg and the Maliseet community of Viger began to engage in commercial communal fishing for numerous species. At the time, the Department bought 14 lobster fishing licences from traditional fishers to issue them to the three Mi’kmaq First Nations. Over the years, the fisheries became powerful economic levers for these communities.

The 2000s

Around 2005, the significant decrease in landings shown in Figure 9 was a troubling sign for the health of lobster stocks in Quebec. In 2007, the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (FRCC) submitted its report entitled “Sustainability Framework for Atlantic Lobster” as a follow-up to its 1995 report on the status of the lobster stocks in Atlantic Canada, in which they stated that fishers were taking too much and that, as a result, the risk of recruitment failure was unacceptably high. The FRCC’s 2007 report focused mainly on reaching a conservation target, reducing fishing effort and the need for fish harvesters to provide comprehensive data about their fishing activities and landings. In response to the second FRCC report and industry interest, DFO announced the $50 million Atlantic Lobster Sustainability Measures program in 2009, which essentially provided funding to the lobster industry to improve its economic prosperity and long-term sustainability.

In the Gaspé, various measures have been developed for the purpose of enhancing biological productivity, namely measures to reduce fishing effort and capacity, reduce the exploitation rate, protect berried females, improve stock structure, protect the larger spawners (males and females), and minimize waste. This included increasing the minimum catch size (from 76 mm to 82 mm in LFAs 20 and 21 and to 83 mm in LFA 19, reached in 2004), implementing voluntary V-notching of a certain number of berried females per year per fisher, requiring, traps to have escape vents and gaps with rot cords (as of 1993), and imposing a minimum size (in 2007 in LFA 20 and in 2016 inf LFAs 19 and 21). Other measures have been put in place to reduce fishing effort: the licence buy-back program, a single hauling of traps per day (as of 2003), and, in 2006, reducing the number of fishing days from 70 to 68 and the number of traps per licence from 250 to 235 (DFO 2016; RPPSG 2009). Between 2007 and 2016, a total of 55 lobster licences in the Gaspé were bought back, including 48 by the Regroupement des pêcheurs professionnels du sud de la Gaspésie (RPPSG), a non-profit organization that represents the interests of fishers, with financial assistance from the Ministère de l’Agriculture des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec (MAPAQ) and the DFO. All these measures, whose history is shown in Appendix 6, made it possible to reduce fishing effort by more than 30% in the Gaspé between 2003 and 2016.

Ecocertification

Ecocertification is a process for certifying the sustainability of fishing or aquaculture activities, based on certain objective criteria. As demand for certified products is growing in Canada and worldwide, some actors in the Quebec fishing industry have seized the opportunity by taking steps to obtain ecocertification in recent years.

All certified stocks in Quebec have Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification. The MSC is a non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO) that issues independent certifications to attest that products have been fished sustainably, meaning they are in compliance with the standards of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling Alliance (ISEAL) for responsible fisheries. The MSC is generally recognized as the global reference in terms of sustainable fishing and is based on three basic principles: the sustainability of targeted stocks, preservation of ecosystems and the effectiveness of the fishery management system. To be ecocertified, a fishery must be evaluated on these criteria by an accredited independent certification body.

The traceability program is one of the initiatives put forward by the RPPSG to meet the criteria for ecocertification. Since 2012, all lobsters harvested in the Gaspé have been identified with tags attached to elastics on their claws to indicate where they came from. In 2015, the lobster fishery was certified as a sustainable and well-managed fishery under the MSC’s international scientific certification program. In addition, it is one of three MSC ecocertified lobster fisheries in the Atlantic whose lobsters are also recommended by Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program.

Lobster remains one of the most important species harvested in the Gaspé, as it involves the largest number of participants. With landings increasing substantially since 2010 (Figure 9 ), the industry is maintaining and improving efforts that began more than a decade ago to enhance the biological productivity and health of the lobster population in the Gaspé.

1.2 Types of fishery

The lobster fishery is a limited entry fishery. It is managed by controlling fishing effort (number of licences, number and size of traps, fishing season and daily schedule, organization of trap lines) and by escapement measures: minimum and maximum legal sizes, release of berried females and release of females with a V-notch on their uropods, marked in this way by fishers on a voluntary basis.

The three Mi’kmaq communities in the Gaspé, namely the Listuguj, Gesgapegiag and Gespeg First Nations, are active in the commercial lobster fishery. Moreover, the Listuguj community participates in a fall lobster fishery in LFA 21B for food, social and ceremonial purposes.

A few limited licences are issued annually for scientific, educational and/or public display purposes. The RPPSG is setting up a project involving commercial fishing for tourism purposes.

The lobster fishery in Forillon National Park is the only commercial natural resource harvesting activity that has been authorized there since its creation in 1970. As part of its ecological monitoring program, the National Park established a sampling plan to obtain specific data on stock health and trends for the lobster population occurring within its boundaries.

1.3 Participants

In the Gaspé, lobster fishing is essentially practised by commercial fishers and Aboriginal communities. In 2016, there were a total of 164 active licences, including 12 belonging to the First Nations. Table 1 illustrates the number of active licences in 2016 by fishing area and sub-area.

Table 1 :Number of active licences in 2016 by lobster fishing area and sub-area in the Gaspé

Areas Sub-areas No. of licences Total per area Grand total
19 19A1 0 8 164
19A2 1
19A3 1
19B 2
19C1 2
19C2 2
20 20A1 2 143
20A2 22Footnote 1
20A3 6
20A3A 1
20A4 6
20A5 5
20A6 6
20A7 4
20A8 5
20A9 2
20A9A 14
20A10 6
20B1 17
20B2 2
20B3 7
20B4 16
20B5 6
20B6 10
20B7 4
20B8 2
21 21A 8Footnote 2 13
21B 5Footnote 3

Source: DFO, Quebec Region

1.4 Location of the fishery

The fishing effort is distributed among four fishing areas (LFAs 19, 20A, 20B and 21), as described in Part III of Schedule XIII of the Atlantic Fishery Regulations, 1985. LFA 20 is used for management purposes and is made up of areas 20A and 20B. These areas are subdivided into 28 sub-areas (Table 1 ) around the Gaspé Peninsula (Figure 3 ). LFA 20 has the most active licences—87% of the total number in the Gaspé. The Gespeg First Nation also fishes for lobster in this area. A small fleet (eight enterprises) fishes along the north shore of the Peninsula (LFA 19), between Forillon and Grande-Vallée. In LFA 21, there were six active enterprises, including the Mi’kmaq communities of Gesgapegiag and Listuguj, in 2016.

Figure 2 : The main lobster fishing areas and sub-areas in the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence

Source: DFO, Quebec Region

Map
Description

This map that has no official sanction presents main fishing areas and sub-areas of the lobster in the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence. The coordinates of the points that defines the lobster fishing areas and sub-areas are indicated in terms of latitude (north) and longitude (west) and expressed in degree-minute-second format

Point Longitude Latitude
1 57°06'45'' W 51°25'00'' N
2 60°00'00'' W 49°25'00'' N
3 60°00'00'' W 47°50'00'' N
4 57°50'00'' W 46°00'00'' N
5 59°42'00'' W 44°56'00'' N
6 60°11'00'' W 45°47'00'' N
7 60°47'32'' W 45°57'25'' N
8 60°48'32'' W 45°57'32'' N
9 61°24'15'' W 45°38'30'' N
10 61°25'45'' W 45°38'10'' N
11 60°40'00'' W 46°58'42'' N
12 60°45'00'' W 47°02'18'' N
13 61°51'06'' W 46°27'52'' N
14 61°58'25'' W 46°26'55'' N
15 63°42'42'' W 45°51'45'' N
16 63°28'03'' W 46°10'35'' N
17 63°29'26'' W 46°12'58'' N
18 63°59'48.8'' W 47°03'27.7'' N
19 64°02'10'' W 47°08'25'' N
20 64°49'40'' W 47°00'48'' N
21 66°20'48'' W 48°05'57'' N
22 66°21'30'' W 48°05'04'' N
23 66°22'08'' W 48°04'15'' N
24 66°19'21'' W 48°03'16'' N
25 65°50'00'' W 48°01'30'' N
26 65°29'10'' W 47°51'42'' N
27 65°29'10'' W 48°02'00'' N
28 65°03'30'' W 47°57'45'' N
29 64°30'00'' W 48°12'15'' N
30 64°02'10'' W 48°12'15'' N
31 63°00'00'' W 48°30'00'' N
32 64°13'30'' W 48°43'00'' N
33 64°09'51'' W 48°44'55'' N
34 70°44'11'' W 46°56'06'' N
35 70°48'40'' W 47°02'57'' N
36 69°42'03'' W 48°08'06'' N
37 69°35'30'' W 48°02'30'' N
38 69°00'00'' W 48°27'00'' N
39 67°11'00'' W 49°09'45'' N
40 65°00'00'' W 49°51'30'' N
41 64°20'30'' W 50°06'30'' N
42 61°16'00'' W 49°50'30'' N
43 61°16'00'' W 50°10'25'' N
44 59°54'40'' W 50°16'55'' N
45 59°23'30'' W 49°51'00'' N
46 61°29'20'' W 45°41'30'' N
47 61°30'42'' W 45°43'42'' N
48 61°40'00'' W 45°50'00'' N
49 61°57'00'' W 46°09'00'' N
50 61°30'15'' W 46°37'30'' N
51 64°41'36'' W 48°19'36'' N
52 64°02'10'' W 47°18'25'' N
53 63°47'30'' W 47°07'58'' N
54 67°40'09'' W 48°56'34'' N
55 68°07'40'' W 49°14'00'' N
56 66°22'00'' W 49°24'05'' N
57 67°02'10'' W 49°50'00'' N
58 65°52'39'' W 49°34'04'' N
59 66°42'00'' W 50°06'30'' N
60 65°16'33'' W 49°46'05'' N
61 65°30'10'' W 50°17'00'' N
62 64°38'00'' W 49°59'54'' N
63 64°38'00'' W 50°16'30'' N
64 63°40'00'' W 50°03'25'' N
65 63°40'00'' W 50°15'00'' N
66 62°54'00'' W 49°59'38'' N
67 62°54'00'' W 50°17'00'' N
68 61°32'42'' W 49°52'54'' N
69 61°31'42'' W 50°08'30'' N
70 65°54'10'' W 48°01'47'' N
71 65°54'10'' W 48°12'36'' N
72 64°22'00'' W 49°48'42'' N
73 64°37'30'' W 49°36'30'' N
74 63°46'00'' W 49°01'30'' N
75 63°24'00'' W 49°2100'' N
76 64°55'00'' W 49°12'00'' N
77 64°44'00'' W 49°40'30'' N
78 64°05'00'' W 49°13'30'' N
79 64°24'00'' W 49°00'32'' N

Figure 3  : Representation of Lobster fishing sub-areas in Gaspésie: LFA 19 (19A1 to 19A3, 19B, 19C1 and 19C2), LFA 20 (20A1 to 20A10 and 20B1 to 20B8) and LFA 21 (21A and 21B)

Source: DFO, Quebec Region

Map
Description

Figure 3 presents the division of the lobster fishing areas in the Gaspé in 28 sub-areas. Subareas 19A1 to 19A3, 19B, 19C1 and 19C2 subdivide lobster fishing area 19, sub-areas 20A1 to 20A10, 20A3A and 20A9A subdivide area 20A, sub-areas 20B1 to 20B8 subdivide the fishing area lobster 20B and lobster fishing area 21 is subdivided by sub-areas 21A and 21B.

Fishing activity is concentrated on rocky reefs—the preferred habitat of the lobster—lying between the shore and about 20 nautical miles offshore. The lobster harvesters generally begin their season by working the seabed farther from shore, where a large proportion of the lobster that have spent the winter offshore are located. As the season advances, the fish harvesters move closer inshore, following the migrating lobster. These fish harvesters use a pursuit strategy to harvest their catch. A smaller number of fish harvesters remain inshore and, adopting an interception strategy, wait for the lobster to arrive there.

In the Gaspé, more than 100 landing ports have been used by lobster harvesters since 1985. The ports that have recorded the highest landed volumes over the years are, in descending order, those in Grande-Rivière, L’Anse-à-Beaufils, Sainte-Thérèse-de-Gaspé, Saint-Georges-de-Malbaie, L’Anse-à-Brillant, Saint-Godefroi and Port-Daniel-Est (as of 2017).

1.5 Fishery characteristics

The lobster fishery is conducted using regulation-sized traps. These traps are selective and must be equipped with escape vents and biodegradable panels that serve to reduce the retention and mortality of undersized lobster and non-targeted species.

The lobster fishery is a spring activity that lasts 10 weeks, and the opening date is determined based on recommendations made by the Local Advisory Committee.

The lobster fishery is managed by controlling fishing effort. The elements controlled include fishing sub-areas, period, the number of gear and their characteristics, and the characteristics specific to the specimens harvested, and particularly to the size of the lobsters and to berried females. The management measures that will be in place for the duration of this plan are published in the “Notices to Fish Harvesters” section of the DFO Quebec Region website: https://inter-l01.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/applications/opti-opei/notice-avis-eng.php?region_id=4&sub_type_id=5&type=1&display_option=1.

1.6 Governance

The fishing activities are subject to the Fisheries Act and its regulations, including more specifically the Atlantic Fishery Regulations, 1985, the Fishery (General) Regulations and the Aboriginal Communal Fishing Licences Regulations.

The Lobster Local Advisory Committee for areas 19, 20 and 21 plays an important role in determining management orientations and objectives for the species. The recommendations put forward by the committee, which works in close partnership with DFO, regularly translate into conservation measures that, without contradicting, go beyond the provisions of the above-mentioned legislation. The Local Advisory Committee is made up of representatives of fishers, First Nations, buyers and local producers, the MAPAQ, Transport Canada, Parks Canada, and different partners involved in monitoring or research.

The committee meets every three years. During those years where the committee does not meet, workshops are usually held to continue the work on the different issues. Additional meetings may be held as needed. The representatives sitting on the committee are the link between the industry and DFO. In this regard, recommendations submitted to the Department are consensus-based rather than the result of a vote. The representatives identified for each sub-area must consult their peers and inform them of what was discussed during Advisory Committee meetings and workshops.

1.7 Approval process

The IFMP for areas 19, 20 and 21 is prepared by DFO in collaboration with industry. It is then approved by the Regional Director, Fisheries and Aquaculture Management, and by the Regional Director General for the publication on the DFO National website. The multi-year management measures that are outlined in the Conservation Harvesting Plan (CHP) and contribute to the implementation of the IFMP are also approved by the Regional Director of Fisheries Management.

2. Stock assessment, science and traditional knowledge

2.1 Biological synopsis

The American lobster (Homarus americanus) ranges along the west coast of the Atlantic, from Labrador to Cape Hatteras. Adults prefer rocky substrates where they can find shelter, but also live on sandy or even muddy bottoms. Commercial concentrations are generally found at depths of less than 35 m, especially in the northern part of the species’ range. Lobsters migrate seasonally to shallower, warmer water in spring and early summer and to deeper, less turbulent water in the fall.

Lobsters begin life by going through a planktonic larval phase that lasts about three to four weeks. They undergo three stages of development (Stages I, II and III) before metamorphosing to become postlarvae (Stage IV), which resemble adult lobster. Over the course of the planktonic phase, lobsters are exposed to high mortality due to predator action and displacement by currents, which can carry larvae far from the sites that would be optimal for the continuation of their life cycle.

At the end of this planktonic phase, the postlarvae drift down from the surface layer and settle on the bottom in coastal habitats that offer many crannies where they can find shelter (nurseries). Lobsters are highly dependent on the nature of the substrate for their survival during the early benthic stages, and they generally congregate where shelter already exists. Thus, they are found primarily on gravel and cobble substrates, but they can also be associated with beds of mussels and macroalgae, where they hide and lead a cryptic existence. They are most common in the infralittoral zone, at depths of less than 10 m. The quality of these habitats is a determining factor in the success of the lobster’s benthic settlement and future recruitment. Lobsters leave the nursery when they reach a carapace length (CL) of about 40-50 mm and outgrow their shelters. At this stage, the lobsters are about 3 to 4 years old. It is estimated that lobsters in Gaspésie reach 83 mm CL at around 8 years of age or older in cold regions, after they have moulted about 16 times since settling on the bottom. The minimum catch size in LFA 19 is 83 mm CL and 82 mm CL in LFAs 20 and 21.

Females reach sexual maturity at a size of about 82 mm CL in the southern part of the Gaspé; the size is higher in the northern part. Males reach sexual maturity at a smaller size. In general, females have a two-year reproductive cycle, spawning one year and moulting the next. Females spawning for the first time can produce around 8,000 eggs, while large females measuring 127 mm (jumbo size) can lay up to 35,000 eggs. In addition to being very fertile, some larger females can spawn two consecutive years before moulting. Once released, in the spring or summer, the eggs remain attached to the females’ swimmerets for nine to 12 months, until the planktonic larvae hatch the following summer. Spawning and hatching can occur earlier in the season for multiparous females (females spawning for the second time at least) than for primiparous females (females spawning for the first time). It has also been observed that larvae at the time of release can be larger for multiparous females than for primiparous females.

Although recruitment cannot be predicted on the basis of egg numbers, this nevertheless plays a key role in the productivity of populations. Maintaining adequate egg production and increasing the contribution of multiparous females to this production are key stock management goals.

2.2 Ecosystem Interactions

The first benthic stages and juvenile benthic stages of lobster are vulnerable to predation by striped bass, cunner, tautog and sculpin, particularly on bare substrates or on those where the number of shelters is limited or non-existent. In coastal waters, lobsters’ vulnerability to predation tends to decline rapidly as their size increases. This phenomenon can be explained by the scarcity of large, mobile predators near the coast. When they reach adult size, hard-shell lobsters are no longer really vulnerable to predators. They are almost completely absent from the diet of grey seals and harp seals.

Lobsters are predators, primarily of other shellfish, mollusks, bristle worms and echinoderms. In particular, throughout their range, lobsters live in close association with rock crabs and eat them in great amounts all their life. Lobsters show a marked preference for rock crab when they are offered a choice of prey, which can be explained by the crab’s nutritional value. This makes rock crab a key resource for lobsters.

The water temperature at lobster grounds in the Gaspé varies between approximately -1° C and 15-16° C over the course of the year. For the last 20 years, the surface waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence have been increasingly warm in the spring, summer and fall. The springtime water temperature when the season opens has a direct impact on catch rates, with warmer water generating higher catch rates. Milder springs cause fish harvesters to want the season to open earlier.

A warmer temperature may also accelerate the embryonic and larval development of lobster and foster faster growth during the first two to three years of their benthic life, which may increase the productivity of the stock. The positive impact of the warming could be more marked in the regions of the lobster’s range that have historically been colder, such as the North Shore and the Gaspé Peninsula. However, if too extreme, warming of the water could encourage the development of lobster diseases, either directly or through changes associated the physico-chemical properties of water (oxygen, pH).

2.3 Traditional knowledge of Aboriginal Peoples and traditional ecological knowledge

Traditional Aboriginal knowledge in this fishery is a potential source of information. When Aboriginal organizations will be in a position to share the traditional knowledge of Aboriginal peoples, DFO will take it into consideration as part of its management frameworks.

2.4 Stock assessment

Resource status assessments were conducted annually until 2005, which made it possible to closely monitor the impacts of increasing the minimum catch size on the lobster populations. The assessment now occurs every three years. The last assessment was completed in winter 2016 and described the 2015 situation of the stock and the changes observed since the previous assessment done in 2012. The next assessment will take place in winter 2019 and will cover the fishing seasons from 2016 to 2018.

The status of the resource is assessed by examining abundance and demographic, fishing pressure and stock productivity indicators. Data sources from which the indicators are derived include: landings recorded on processing plant purchase slips, data from sampling done by area or sub-area at sea or dockside since, respectively, 1986 and 1997; logbooks used since 2012; the catching of experimental traps with closed vents used by 25–35 participating fish harvesters since 2006; and finally, the post-season trap surveys carried out since 2011.

The last stock assessment showed that abundance indicators reached historic highs in 2014–2015. Landings have increased since 2005 and, in 2015, reached 1,802 tonnes (t), a figure that is 97% higher than the 25-year average (912 t). In 2015, 87% of Gaspé landings came from Area 20, 7% from Area 21, and 6% from Area 19. Average catch per unit effort (CPUE), whether measured by number or weight per trap, also declined significantly. In 2015, CPUEs expressed in weight were greater than those for 2011 by a factor of 24% in Area 21B (2.54 kg/trap in the autumn), 41% in Area 20 (0.48 kg/trap) and 235% in LFA 19 (1.61 kg/trap).

2015 demographic indicators show that the average weight of lobsters caught was high in Areas 19C and 21B (96–98 mm), and lower in Area 20 (≈88 mm). The average weight stayed quite stable since 2011, except in area 19C, where it dropped slightly. The size structures are shorter in Area 20 and for this reason, the proportion of jumbo lobsters (≥ 127 mm CL) remains very low (< 0.5 %). Size structures are longer in Area 19C and the percentage of jumbo lobsters is consequently high there, although it decreased from 5.2% in 2011 to 2.2% in 2015 because of an increase in juveniles fished. Area 21B shows a situation that falls between the two previous areas. Since 2011, the sex ratio has remained approximately equal to one in Area 20 or greater than one elsewhere in the Gaspé and seems to be sufficient for reproduction. Fishing pressure indicators are complete only for Area 20, where the exploitation rate was 71.6% on average from 2011 to 2014, a drop in relation to the 78.8 % estimated average for 2008-2010. However, the 2014 exploitation rate, at approximately 74%, was the highest in the recent period.

Stock productivity indicators are available only for Area 20. The number of egg-bearing females in Area 20 has continued to increase since 2011 and egg production is indicated to be at 2011 levels, although the relative contribution of multiparous females to this production has declined. Catch rates for 70-81 mm lobsters (pre-recruits, one moult below legal size) were quite stable from 2013 to 2015, but at a higher level than in 2011, which indicates that landings will remain at a high level in the short term.

The Science Advisory Report (number 2016/043) is available on the DFO website in the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) section at the following link: www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/csas-sccs/Publications/SAR-AS/2016/2016_043-eng.html.

2.5 Stock scenarios

Generally speaking, stock status indicators for lobster in the Gaspé are positive. Lobster numbers and egg production are high and recent environmental conditions—particularly temperature—seem to be favourable to lobster. In fact, the abundance of pre-recruits in Area 20 suggests that this stock will be maintained at a high level, as it was for the years 2016–2017 for a similar level of catchability. The high egg production in Area 20 results in large part from the increase in the legal size from 1997 to 2004, the 2008 introduction of a maximum catch size to protect large females, and a plan to reduce fishing effort.

Despite positive signs and conservation efforts, size structure in Area 20 should still be improved by reducing the fishing effort. This will help reduce the dependence of the fishery on the annual recruitment and will also help increase the proportion of multiparous females in the population and ensure their reproductive success by maintaining suitable sex ratios, according to the FRCC recommendations.

2.6 Precautionary Approach

The Precautionary Approach (PA), recognized as key to sustainable fisheries management, is applied to management decisions for the lobster fishery in the Gaspé. With the goal of avoiding serious harm to fish stocks or their ecosystems, it involves exercising caution when conclusive scientific evidence is not available, and not using the absence of relevant scientific data as a reason for not taking or delaying action.

In 2013, the Regional Science Branch developed reference points for the application of the Precautionary Approach to lobster in the Gaspé (DFO, 2014), consistent with A Fishery Decision-Making Framework Incorporating the Precautionary Approach (DFO 2009). Also in 2013, decision-making rules for applying the Precautionary Approach were developed with the industry (see section 7.1), which take into account stock status and biological reference points. Figure 4 presents the lobster stock indicator positions in the Gaspé in relation to three areas established by the Precautionary Approach. The Upper Stock Reference (USR) separates the healthy zone (green) and the cautious zone (yellow), while the Limit Reference Point (LRP) separates the cautious zone (yellow) and the critical zone (red). According to the last resource assessment in 2016, Gaspé lobsters were in the healthy zone in relation to the established reference points (Figure 4 ).

Figure 4 : Lobster landings in the Gaspé from 1945 to 2015. The healthy zone is green. The cautious zone is yellow, and the critical zone is red.

Source: DFO, Science, Quebec Region 2014

Graphic Chart
Description

Figure 4 presents lobster landings evolution in the Gaspé from 1945 to 2015 on which the green, yellow and red zones represent respectively the healthy zone, the cautious zone and the critical zone.

Upper Stock Reference Point (USR) : 650t

Lower Stock Reference point (LSR) : 325t

Year Landings (tonnes)
1945 70
1946 104
1947 91
1948 89
1949 89
1950 114
1951 90
1952 61
1953 87
1954 124
1955 70
1956 177
1957 178
1958 114
1959 129
1960 101
1961 128
1962 137
1963 122
1964 163
1965 171
1966 187
1967 146
1968 170
1969 178
1970 191
1971 161
1972 198
1973 55
1974 107
1975 205
1976 285
1977 326
1978 445
1979 480
1980 512
1981 538
1982 540
1983 819
1984 628
1985 569
1986 550
1987 590
1988 595
1989 652
1990 805
1991 702
1992 871
1993 835
1994 806
1995 1071
1996 1090
1997 708
1998 962
1999 1051
2000 1114
2001 1022
2002 826
2003 888
2004 836
2005 691
2006 766
2007 703
2008 783
2009 738
2010 884
2011 874
2012 1024
2013 1222
2014 1521
2015 1802

The research document (Science Response 2013/027) is available on the CSAS internet site at the following link: www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/csas-sccs/Publications/ScR-RS/2013/2013_027-eng.html.

2.7 Research

DFO is taking part in the development of a pre-recruitment index for Area 20, based on catches of experimental traps with closed vents during the regular fishing season, through a collaboration agreement with RPPSG. This initiative has existed formally since 2007 and the time series should soon allow for verification of the extent to which the abundance of pre-recruits is an accurate predictor of future landings. The RPPSG have also been conducting post-season trap surveys every fall since 2011, to which DFO contributes by formulating the sampling plan.

Since 2010, the Lobster Group of the Canadian Fisheries Research Network, funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) among others, has taken an interest in genomics and many aspects of lobster biology and ecology on Canada’s east coast. The work carried out by this group has made it possible to better understand the genetic structure and connectivity of Atlantic lobster populations, including those of Anticosti, the Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands. Studies on population genomics and laboratory work on larval development suggest that populations adapt to local temperature conditions to a certain extent. A review of historical and recent data about the size of females when they reach maturity revealed notable reductions in the size of mature females on decadal or century time scales in several Atlantic regions and examined the probable causes: temperature, density and artificial selection. Work was done on forecasting lobster larvae hatching dates based on embryo characteristics. Finally, a group project studied the issue of incomplete broods of eggs, which was brought forward by fish harvesters from several regions, by documenting the incidence of the problem throughout Eastern Canada and the characteristics of the females concerned. The work of this group is continuing in the Baie-des-Chaleurs with a review of genetic and demographic connectivity in different spatial scales.

It should be noted that the relationship between the lobster and its main prey, the rock crab, should be studied in more depth in the Gaspé and elsewhere in Quebec, given the context of increasing lobster populations and the appearance of a decline or weakening of rock crab populations. Appendix 5 presents the 2013-2017 Strategic Research Plan for Lobster.

3. Economic, social and cultural importance of the fishery

3.1 Portrait of the lobster market

On a global scale, Canada and the United States are responsible for all American lobster landings (Figure 5). In Canada, in terms of landed volume of lobster in 2016, the main provinces were Nova Scotia (Scotia Fundy) (50,286 t, 56%); New Brunswick (17,524 t, 19%) and Prince Edward Island (14,615 t, 16%). Quebec came fourth with 5,199 t, or nearly 6% of Canadian landings (Figure 5).

Figure 5 : Global American lobster landings (thousands of tonnes), 1993-2016e

Source: National Marine Fisheries Service

Compilation: Strategic Services, DFO, Quebec Region

e: Data estimate for the Scotia Fundy and United States regions forecasting a growth rate, between 2015 and 2016, equivalent to landings for other Canadian regions.

Graphic Chart
Description

Global lobster landings in thousands of tonnes between 1993 and 2016e* and total value of catches in billion dollars.

Year Maritimes
(tonnes)
Gulf and NFL.
(tonnes)
Quebec
(tonnes)
USA
(tonnes)
Total
(tonnes)
Total
(G$US)
1993 14.7 21.8 3.6 26.3 66.4 0.4
1994 17.0 20.9 3.2 31.7 72.7 0.5
1995 16.9 20.7 3.4 31.7 72.8 0.5
1996 16.0 19.9 3.5 32.3 71.7 0.5
1997 17.5 19.2 2.8 37.5 77.0 0.6
1998 17.6 20.4 3.0 36.0 77.0 0.5
1999 21.7 19.4 3.1 40.2 84.4 0.7
2000 20.9 19.8 3.2 39.4 83.3 0.7
2001 28.9 19.8 3.3 32.3 84.3 0.7
2002 23.0 19.8 3.0 37.7 83.5 0.7
2003 27.0 19.4 3.1 32.5 82.0 0.8
2004 25.4 18.1 3.3 40.9 87.7 0.8
2005 29.2 17.7 3.2 39.8 89.9 1.0
2006 30.7 20.0 3.2 43.6 97.5 1.0
2007 25.2 19.5 3.2 36.8 84.7 1.0
2008 33.4 21.1 3.5 39.8 97.8 0.9
2009 32.4 22.3 3.5 45.7 103.9 0.8
2010 39.3 23.5 4.2 53.3 120.3 1.0
2011 41.8 21.1 3.7 57.3 123.9 1.1
2012 45.2 25.9 4.0 68.1 143.2 1.1
2013 44.8 28.9 4.3 68.1 146.1 1.1
2014 57.3 30.5 5.4 67.1 160.3 1.4
2015 55.7 30.4 5.9 66.5 158.5 1.6
2016e 54.8 30.5 5.2 66.5 157.0 1.5

e: Data estimate for the Scotia Fundy and United States regions forecasting a growth rate, between 2015 and 2016, equivalent to landings for other Canadian regions.

Landings occur primarily during May and June in most areas of Canada, whereas in the United States, the most significant landings are recorded from July to November. In November, December and January, large numbers of lobster are caught in southwestern Nova Scotia (Scotia Fundy) (figure 6).”

Figure 6 : Monthly lobster landings, in thousands of tonnes, average 2012–2016p

Source: National Marine Fisheries Service

Compilation: Strategic Services, DFO, Quebec Region

*: Market price (US$/lb), low price 1 ¼ pound, hard shell

**: Market price (US$/lb), low price 1 ¼ pound, soft shell

Graphic Chart
Description

Average of monthly lobster landings in thousands of tonnes with the average of market price for 1 ¼ pound hard shell and soft shell lobster between 2012 and 2016p*.

Month Quebec
(US$)
Canada
Except Quebec)
(US$)
USA
(US$)
Total
(US$)
Average price – Hard Shell
(US$)
Average price – Soft Shell
(US$)
Jan.   4.0 1.0 5.0 6.27  
Fév./Feb   2.3 0.5 2.8 7.31  
Mars/March   1.9 0.5 2.4 8.34  
Avril/April 0.1 3.4 0.8 4.3 8.38  
Mai/May 2.4 20.5 1.7 24.7 6.09  
Juin/June 1.9 15.5 3.1 20.5 5.74  
Juillet/July 0.5 1.8 9.7 12.0 5.91 5.00
Août/August 0.0 3.2 14.8 18.0   4.68
Sept.   2.3 12.5 14.8   5.00
Oct.   2.2 11.8 14.0   5.02
Nov.   4.9 7.2 12.0   4.98
Déc./Dec.   16.6 3.5 20.1 6.02  

* Preliminary

Among the regions of Quebec, the Magdalen Islands ranked first for lobster landings with 2,558 t in 2016, or 49% of total landings in Quebec (Figure 7 ). Gaspé landings came second, with 1,926 tonnes, equalling 37% of the Quebec total and nearly 2% of the Canadian lobster supply. Anticosti and the North Shore trail far behind with respective landings of 564 t (11%) and 134 t (3%) (Figure 7 ).

Figure 7 also illustrates the very great variability of landed prices in Quebec and the sometimes large difference between prices paid in the Gaspé and those paid in the Magdalen Islands.

Figure 7 : Lobster landings (tonnes) and price ($/lb) in Quebec by area between 2003 and 2016p

Source: DFO

Compilation: Strategic Services, DFO, Quebec Region

p: preliminary

Graphic Chart
Description

Landings in tonnes by maritime area in Quebec and price per pounds in Magdalen Islands from 2003 to 2016p*.

Year Magdalen Islands (MI)
(tonnes)
Gaspé
(tonnes)
Anticosti
(tonnes)
North Shore
(tonnes)
Quebec
(tonnes)
Price MI ($/lb) Price Gaspé ($/lb)
2003 2087 892 114 33 3127 6.01 6.30
2004 2371 837 96 19 3325 6.01 6.03
2005 2336 693 125 26 3180 6.37 6.44
2006 2341 772 112 17 3241 5.76 5.35
2007 2371 704 131 26 3232 6.10 6.59
2008 2487 786 157 24 3455 5.20 5.27
2009 2566 741 174 24 3505 4.05 4.41
2010 3033 887 205 31 4156 3.86 4.10
2011 2648 876 174 23 3721 4.67 4.49
2012 2669 1032 244 41 3987 4.77 4.66
2013 2709 1225 314 39 4287 4.06 4.42
2014 3313 1536 452 52 5353 4.25 4.55
2015 3486 1818 504 83 5891 5.80 5.51
2016p 2558 1926 564 134 5182 6.58 6.47

* Preliminary

Eco-certification

The proportion of eco-certified products has become very significant in Quebec, having more than tripled in five years. Lobster fishers in the Magdalen Islands (LFA 22), for which the landings represent 60% of the value of lobster caught in Quebec, were the first lobster fishers certified in the province, in 2003. The areas bordering on the Gaspé (19, 20 and 21) were added to this number in 2015, responding to criteria for a sustainable fishery, to maintain the sustainability of lobster stocks, minimize the environmental impact, and guarantee adaptive management, notably by complying with the regulations in force. In 2015, the landed price of eco-certified lobster amounted to 89% of the total value of Quebec lobster landings (Figure 8), whereas two years before, this percentage was nil. It is now possible to state that nine out of ten lobster from Quebec are from eco-certified fisheries.

Figure 8 : Landings in Quebec, by species and eco-certification, 2015

Source: DFO

Compilation: Strategic Services, DFO, Quebec Region

Graphic Chart
Description

Figure 8: Landings in Quebec, by species and eco-certification, 2015

Species Certified
(M$)
Non certified
(M$)
Total
(M$)
Certification
Snowcrab 38 56 94 41%
Shrimp 55 0 55 100%
Lobster 66 8 74 89%
Other species 0 28 28 0%

3.2 Importance of the lobster fishery on the Gaspé Peninsula

Primary sector: catch

As illustrated in Figure 9 and Figure 10 , there are four Lobster Fishing Areas in the Gaspé: Areas 19, 20a, 20b and 21. In 2015, 50% of landings in the Gaspé occurred in Area 20A. It is the most important area in the sector, both in volume and value, at 954 tonnes and 13.6 million dollars ($M). Area 20B comes in second with 671 t ($9.4 M) and 35% of the Gaspé total. Then, in third and fourth place, are found areas 21 and 19, with respective landings of 168 t ($2.4 M) and 134 t ($2.0 M).

As Figure 9 illustrates, the amounts of lobster landed in the Gaspé remained relatively stable between 2002 and 2009, fluctuating between 787 t and 741 t, with increases or decreases depending on the year. Starting in 2010, landings increased markedly, going from 741 t in 2009 to 1,926 t in 2016, a rise of 160% in seven years. It seems that environmental factors were the source of greater abundance of lobster since 2010, which was also noted in Maine (United States) and in the Atlantic provinces (Figure 6 and Figure 7 ).

Figure 9 : Breakdown of landed volume of lobster in the Gaspé, by area, 2003–2016p (in tonnes)

Source: DFO

Compilation: Strategic Services, DFO, Quebec Region

p: preliminary

Graphic Chart
Description

Lobster landings in 19, 20A, 20B and 21 areas between 2003 and 2016p*.

  Volume (tonnes)  
Year Area 19 Area 20A Area 20B Area 21 Total (tonnes)
2003 29 513 327 23 892
2004 28 493 301 15 837
2005 29 401 247 16 692
2006 24 452 283 13 772
2007 19 409 261 14 704
2008 28 457 282 19 786
2009 24 418 277 21 740
2010 25 494 339 30 887
2011 28 481 328 39 876
2012 30 543 386 73 1032
2013 41 650 431 110 1233
2014 73 754 558 150 1536
2015 106 932 645 136 1818
2016p 134 954 671 168 1926

* Preliminary

The average landed price of lobster has been subject to large fluctuations over the past 15 years in the Gaspé sector. Between 2002 and 2007, with the exception of 2006, prices were over $6/pound, which were historically high levels. Between 2008 and 2010, prices fell from $6.59/lb in 2007 to $4.10/lb in 2010, a drop of 38% in three years. After having registered very slight increases between 2010 and 2014 (11% in four years), prices made strong gains in 2015 and 2016, rising $4.55/pound to $6.47/pound, a surge of 42% (figure 10 ).

Figure 10 : Breakdown in the landed value of lobster in the Gaspé, by area, 2003–2016p (in millions of $)

Source: DFO

Compilation: Strategic Services, DFO, Quebec Region

p: preliminary

Graphic Chart
Description

Lobster landings value in the Gaspé areas 19, 20A, 20B and 21 between 2003 and 2016p* in million dollars.

  Value (million dollars)  
Year Area 19 Area 20A Area 20B Area 21 Total (tonnes)
2003 0.4 7.2 4.5 0.3 12.4
2004 0.4 6.6 4.0 0.2 11.1
2005 0.4 5.7 3.5 0.2 9.8
2006 0.3 5.3 3.3 0.2 9.1
2007 0.3 6.0 3.8 0.2 10.2
2008 0.3 5.3 3.3 0.2 9.1
2009 0.2 4.1 2.7 0.2 7.2
2010 0.2 4.4 3.1 0.3 8.0
2011 0.3 4.7 3.3 0.4 8.7
2012 0.3 5.6 4.0 0.8 10.6
2013 0.4 6.2 4.2 1.1 11.9
2014 0.7 7.6 5.6 1.5 15.4
2015 1.3 11.3 7.8 1.6 22.1
2016p 2.0 13.6 9.4 2.4 27.5

* Preliminary

Because of the rising numbers landed and despite the relatively low price of lobster, the value of lobster landings in the Gaspé has been at very high levels since 2012 and even reached a historical record of $27.5 M in 2016, an upturn of nearly 80% from 2014.

Primary sector: participants

In 2016, 152 enterprises (a skipper-owner and one or more fishers’ helpers) and three Mi’kmaq First Nations took part in this fishery, creating employment for nearly 500 persons (O’Neil Cloutier, pers.).

Figure 11  : Average value of lobster landings, by licence and by area, and number of licences by area 2008-2016p

Source: DFO

Compilation: Strategic Services, DFO, Quebec Region

p: preliminary

Graphic Chart
Description

Average value of lobster landings, by licence and by area, and number of licences by area between 2008 and 2016p*.

  2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016p
Area 19 43 575 $ 29 694 $ 29 546 $ 35 479 $ 39 688 $ 50 412 $ 92 209 $ 166 503 $ 248 520 $
Area 20A 51 756 $ 40 692 $ 47 082 $ 51 950 $ 61 143 $ 73 254 $ 91 219 $ 136 695 $ 172 351 $
Area 20B 40 326 $ 33 293 $ 40 253 $ 47 221 $ 57 407 $ 65 114 $ 88 120 $ 121 198 $ 147 355 $
Area 21 20 435 $ 17 090 $ 26 343 $ 33 653 $ 63 474 $ 82 911 $ 112 611 $ 126 703 $ 187 815 $

* Preliminary

For Areas 20A and 20B in 2016, there were respectively 79 and 64 active licences, including an Aboriginal community (20A area), amounting to 87 % of the total Gaspé region. It is normal to note a difference between the number of licences and the number of licence holders since in some cases, for example the Aboriginal communities, the same holder may possess several licences.

Figure 11 gives a visual indication of the considerable increase in lobster fishers’ income for all areas of the Gaspé since 2010. In 2016, the average gross income of a lobster fisher in Area 20A was $174,561, up 267% from 2010. Also in 2016, the average income of a lobster fisher in Area 20B was $147,355, an increase of 266% from 2010. This increase was even more marked for the small areas, 19 and 21, for which the average incomes reached $198,816 and $348,800 in 2016, respective upturns of 489% and 502% since 2010. The rise in the average income per licence in the Gaspé is attributable to three main factors: increased landing quantities (+87% over the last five years), higher prices (+39% over the last five years) and the drop in the number of licences (-6% during the last five years).

Secondary sector: processing

In the Gaspé, in 2015, there were about 40 buyers and/or processors of marine products, of whom 18 bought lobster. These 18 buyers/producers employed approximately 1,500 persons, of whom about 190 did lobster processing or handling work.

As illustrated in Figure 12 , the Gaspé buyers/producers sell two main categories of lobster: live lobster and processed lobster. Generally speaking, lobster from fishers in the Gaspé is alive when it is resold. In parallel, large quantities of soft-shelled lobster are purchased by plants in the Maritimes or the United States. This lobster is processed and then sold primarily in the United States. Since 2008, the percentage of total sales represented by processed lobster has become increasingly large. In fact, although it represented a mere 8.3% of sales from Gaspé plants in 2007, processed lobster accounted for just over 60% of sales in 2015.

Sales of live lobster are nonetheless very significant and have grown over the past two years from $36.8 M in 2013 to $42.7 M in 2015, climbing by 16%. It should be mentioned that of the lobster purchased directly from fishers, a not insignificant portion is caught at Anticosti Island. In fact, over half of active lobster fishers in Area 17 (Anticosti) land their catch in the Gaspé region. In 2015, plants bought $3.7 M worth of lobster from Anticosti fishers.

Canada is the main destination for Quebec lobster, with sales of $74.8 M in 2015, or 50% of the total. The second destination is the United States, which bought $70.0 M worth of Quebec lobster in 2015, or 47% of the total. It should be noted that some of the lobster sold to the United States is likely re-exported to other markets. The remainder ($5.4 M) is exported to Europe and Asia (China and Hong Kong) (figure 13 ).

In 2014, despite the fact that lobster landings in the Gaspé accounted for only 35% of the Quebec total, lobster sales from Quebec plants rose to 95.3 M, or 68% of the total sales in Quebec. This is explained by the importance, to the Gaspé, of the processing and sale of lobster originating outside of Quebec. In 2014, the main sales destinations for the Gaspé buyers/producers were the United States ($49.5 M), Canada ($40.7 M), Europe ($3.7 M) and Asia ($1.5 M).

Figure 12 : Sales by buyers/producers for the Gaspé, 2003–2015p

Source: DFO

Compilation: Strategic Services, DFO, Quebec Region

p: preliminary

Graphic Chart
Description

Sales by buyers/producers for the Gaspé between 2003 and 2015p*.

Year Lobster processed Live lobster Total
2003 0.8 M$ 17.2 M$ 18.1 M$
2004 1.4 M$ 21.3 M$ 22.7 M$
2005 1.4 M$ 19.8 M$ 21.1 M$
2006 4.1 M$ 19.3 M$ 23.5 M$
2007 1.3 M$ 14.4 M$ 15.7 M$
2008 13.2 M$ 19.2 M$ 32.3 M$
2009 3.8 M$ 11.0 M$ 14.8 M$
2010 41.6 M$ 19.7 M$ 61.3 M$
2011 53.9 M$ 16.5 M$ 70.3 M$
2012 56.1 M$ 47.3 M$ 103.4 M$
2013 32.1 M$ 36.8 M$ 68.9 M$
2014 58.3 M$ 37.1 M$ 95.4 M$
2015p 53.7 M$ 42. 96.5 M$

* Preliminary

Figure 13 : Sales by Quebec buyers/producers, by destination country, 2005–2015p

Source: DFO

Compilation: Strategic Services, DFO, Quebec Region

p: preliminary

Graphic Chart
Description

Sales by Quebec buyers/producers, by destination country between 2005 and 2015p* in million dollars.

Importing country 2005
(M$)
2006
(M$)
2007
(M$)
2008
(M$)
2009
(M$)
2010
(M$)
2011
(M$)
2012
(M$)
2013
(M$)
2014
(M$)
2015p
(M$)
Canada 51.3 53.2 65.8 54.2 35.8 55.5 68.4 80.3 66.4 67.7 74.8
USA 29.4 23.6 9.2 32.9 14.9 64.0 62.1 70.9 37.0 66.6 70.0
China - - - - - 0.1 0.7 1.8 1.4 1.5 1.4
Europe 0.0 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 - 0.1 0.5 0.6 3.7 4.0
Total 80.8 77.0 75.1 87.0 50.7 119.5 131.3 153.6 105.4 139.5 150.2

* Preliminary

3.3 Price and exchange rates

As shown in Figure 14 , the price of lobster in the 1¼ lb category took a very different course based on whether it was in US$ or CAN$. For example, between 2002 and 2008, the price increased by 20.6% in US$ ($5.35/lb to $6.45/lb), while it declined by 21.1% in CAN$ ($8.24/lb to $6.50/lb). This is explained by the 52% rise in the value of the Canadian dollar during this period from US$0.65 to US$0.99).

On the other hand, when the value of the CAN$ fell off by 27% between 2011 and 2016 (US$1.03 to US$0.75), the price of lobster performed better in CAN$ than in US$. It surged by 44% whereas it only registered a modest gain of 8% in US$.

Figure 14 : Change in 1¼ lb. lobster prices on the (US and CAN) wholesale market and exchange rates (May to June), 2003-2016

Source: Seafood Price Current, Bank of Canada

Compilation: Strategic Services, DFO, Quebec Region

Graphic Chart
Description

Change in 1¼ lb. lobster prices on the (US and CAN) wholesale market and exchange rates (May to June), 2003-2016.

  2003 ‘04 ‘05 ‘06 ‘07 ‘08 ‘09 ‘10 ‘11 ‘12 ‘13 ‘14 ‘15 ‘16
May-June ($US) 5.77 5.60 6.45 6.59 7.42 6.45 5.00 5.20 6.23 6.11 4.98 5.31 6.44 6.74
May-June ($CAN) 7.89 7.66 8.05 7.33 8.01 6.50 5.70 5.41 6.04 6.24 5.10 5.77 7.92 8.70
Exchange rate
($US/$CAN)
0.73 0.73 0.80 0.90 0.93 0.99 0.88 0.96 1.03 0.98 0.97 0.92 0.81 0.75

As illustrated in Figure 15 , there is a strong correlation between American market prices expressed in CAN$ and prices paid to Quebec fishers. This means that the change in the CAN$/US$ exchange rate has a direct impact on fishers’ incomes.

Figure 15 : Landed price of 1¼ lb lobster in Quebec versus the American market price, 2003-2016p

Source: Seafood Price Current, Bank of Canada

Compilation: Strategic Services, DFO, Quebec Region

Graphic Chart
Description

Landed price of 1¼ lb lobster in Quebec versus the American market price, 2003-2016p*.

  2003 ‘04 ‘05 ‘06 ‘07 ‘08 ‘09 ‘10 ‘11 ‘12 ‘13 ‘14 ‘15 ‘16p
Prix sur le marché américain
(Mai-juin, $CAN/lb)
7.89 7.66 8.05 7.33 8.01 6.50 5.70 5.41 6.04 6.24 5.10 5.77 7.92 8.70
Prix au débarquement Qc ($Can/lb) 6.09 5.84 6.38 5.66 6.21 5.22 4.14 3.93 4.63 4.73 4.16 4.33 5.68 6.54
Ratio prix débarquement vs prix marché américain 77% 76% 79% 77% 77% 80% 73% 73% 77% 76% 81% 75% 72% 75%

* Preliminary

4. Management issues

Management issues provide an overview of the key concerns and challenges specific to the lobster fishery in fishing areas 19, 20 and 21. The objectives to respond to these issues are presented in Section 5.

Management issues have been formulated in terms of risk factors, after validation with the main internal and external stakeholders in the lobster fishery. They were identified from workshops and meetings with the RPPSG and First Nations, from the RPPSG lobster conservation plan (RPPSG, 2009), the last lobster stock assessments (2012 and 2016), and the 2015 final report on MSC evaluation and certification, and taking into account the 2007 FRCC recommendations and the Precautionary Approach for lobsters of the Gaspé (areas 19, 20 and 21) (2013).

4.1 Ensuring sustainable lobster harvesting

In recent years, the industry and DFO have put forward initiatives to reduce fishing effort, increase egg production and allow for sustainable lobster harvesting, in compliance with recommendations from the 2012 stock assessment and the Sustainability Framework for Atlantic Lobster 2007 (FRCC). The Precautionary Approach, developed in cooperation with the industry in 2012, has been in effect since 2014. It included decision-making rules aimed at maintaining stock levels in the healthy zone (See Section 7).

The electronic logbook mandatory since 2012 provides access to reliable data about fisheries, upon which science management and processes are based. However, it is necessary to acquire independent data on the fisheries to support implementation of the Precautionary Approach, as part of a sustainable strategy for fishery management activities.

Finally, recent environmental changes could lead to changes in species distribution and abundance and have an impact on trophic relationships. It is therefore becoming essential to clearly understand the impact of environmental changes to ensure sustainable harvesting of the resource.

4.2 Develop and apply an ecosystem approach for the lobster fishery

Stakeholders and resource users are concerned about lobster habitat protection and the impact of various fishing activities on species and habitats. The Department promotes responsible fishing aimed at reducing bycatch and mitigating impacts on habitat.

New policies implemented by the Sustainable Fisheries Framework, including the Policy for Managing the Impact of Fishing on Sensitive Benthic Areas and the Policy for Managing Bycatch, call for consideration of the fishery’s impact on the ecosystem. Therefore, it is necessary to identify and minimize the negative impact that fishing activities can have on the ecosystem.

The Government of Canada is committed to protecting 5% of Canada’s marine and coastal areas by 2017 and 10% 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. More information on the background and drivers for Canada’s marine conservation targets is available at the following link: www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/oceans/conservation/index-eng.html.

The DFO is establishing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and “other effective area-based conservation measures” (OEABCM) in consultation with industry, non-governmental organizations, and other interested parties that help meet these targets. An overview of these tools, including a description of the role of fisheries management measures that qualify as OEABCM, is available at this website www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/oceans/mpa-zpm-aoi-si-eng.html.

Specific management measures established for the conservation and protection of cold water corals and sponges that affect the Lobster Fishery in areas 19, 20 and 21 qualify as OEABCM and therefore contribute to Canada’s marine conservation targets. More information on these management measures and their conservation objectives is provided in Section 7 of this IFMP.

In 2015, the lobster fishery on the Gaspé Peninsula was certified by the MSC. It therefore meets the organization’s principles and criteria for a sustainable fishery (for more information, see the MSC website à this link: https://fisheries.msc.org/en/fisheries/gaspesie-lobster-trap-fishery). However, a condition of maintaining this eco-certification is to develop an IFMP and to implement a partial strategy to ensure that the lobster fishery in the Gaspé does not hinder the recovery and rebuilding of Canadian mackerel stocks.

4.3 Fishery compliance

The degree of compliance with management measures is always conditional on the monitoring done by fishery officers and the industry’s adherence to those measures. The intensity of fishing activities taking place in a relatively large fishing area calls for a significant investment in human and financial resources on the part of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). This intensive monitoring is desired by the industry to ensure that the management measures it proposes are respected.

An orderly fishery also depends upon awareness-raising and mobilization of fishers, buyers, processors and fishmongers, as well as the general population.

Different management measures (e.g. minimum and maximum sizes), which exist between fishing areas that are part of the same production areas, make management and enforcement of the Fisheries Act by fishery officers more complex.

4.4 Economic prosperity

In a maritime sector such as the Gaspé, the lobster fishery is very important both in terms of the jobs it supports and its economic benefits.

The lobster fishing industry continues to be healthy and businesses are seeing their revenues increase, which makes them less accessible to the next generation.

Markets are increasingly competitive and consumers are more selective about their purchases, which has led to diversification and marketing initiatives in the industry, such as eco-certification, traceability, and even a commercial tourist fishery.

4.5 Increased participation by First Nations and Aboriginal capacity development

Since the Sparrow ruling in 1990, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, through the AFS, has provided First Nations with access to the resource for food, social and ceremonial purposes. Following the Marshall decision in 1999, in which the Supreme Court of Canada recognized the right of Aboriginal peoples to hunt, fish and gather to ensure a moderate livelihood, the Department supported governance and management skills development with training and coaching of First Nations through the AICFI.

Mi’kmaq and Malecites First Nations in the Gaspé are developing their autonomy and their lobster fishing capacities, which provides financial leverage for the communities.

4.6 Governance

The lobster fishery involves many stakeholders. Consultation processes that promote the active participation and involvement of industry members are necessary for creating a sustainable, profitable and orderly fishery, and for the harmonious use of fishing grounds.

Locally, fishery management sub-areas strengthen fishers’ involvement in decision-making processes. In addition, uniting various levels of government around common issues in a collaborative management approach supports a comprehensive vision of the lobster fishery.

5. Objectives

This section of the IFMP defines the objectives as identified by DFO, the RPPSG, and First Nations. The management measures that will be implemented, and efforts made by DFO, the industry and First Nations will seek to achieve the identified objectives. These objectives are set by taking into account the issues described in the previous section and they propose short-, mid- and long-term solutions.

Monitoring of the performance indicators presented in section 10 and Appendix 2 will show to what extent the initiatives undertaken have been successful and allow for assessment of progress made against objectives.

5.1 Ensure sustainable harvesting of lobster

The stock assessment in 2016 concluded that high abundance, productivity and landings indicate that the Gaspé lobster stock is in good condition and in the healthy zone according to the Precautionary Approach. However, in Area 20, the small average size of commercial lobsters and the high exploitation rate suggest that the work already undertaken to reduce fishing effort must be continued.

With the electronic logbook, reliable data about fisheries can be gathered, on which science management and processes are based. However, it is necessary to acquire fishery-independent data to support implementation of the Precautionary Approach, as part of a sustainable strategy for fishery management activities.

Initiatives must be put forward to adopt a comprehensive approach when making management and conservation decisions regarding fishing areas in the same breeding grounds, taking into account population connectivity.

5.1.1   Keep stock abundance in the healthy zone.

5.1.2   Protect reproductive potential.

5.1.3   Reduce waste from ghost fishing and the impact of releases.

5.1.4   Consider population connectivity when establishing conservation and management measures.

5.1.5   Obtain reliable information on fisheries to support management and science processes.

5.1.6   Educate all industry stakeholders on conservation issues.

5.2 Develop and apply an ecosystem approach for the lobster fishery

Establishment of an ecosystem approach is consistent with integration of the Sustainable Fisheries Framework into fisheries management. Since habitat quality is a determining factor in successful benthic development and lobster recruitment, the interrelations between various fishing activities (other than the lobster fishery) and other activities (for instance, aquaculture, dredging deposits, etc.) that have an impact on the seabed and on lobster populations must be taken into consideration when establishing management measures for the diverse species or activities.

Although trap fishing is considered to have less of an impact than other fishing gear, the fact is, these bottom-contact gear affect the seabed. Furthermore, ghost fishing can impact certain species. Although lobster traps are selective, some non-targeted species enter them and are brought to the surface. The survival rate for fish returned to the water is variable, depending on the condition of the individual, the species and the way they are released. Bait needs could also harm the stocks and species used. The impact of the lobster fishery on other species, especially on species at risk, must therefore be assessed to minimize the risk of serious harm to non-targeted species.

Lobster is a food source for several fish. A follow-up on the evaluation of predation is necessary to better describe the impacts on lobster populations in the Gaspé. The industry underlines the importance of learning about the impact of predator species on lobsters.

In terms of climate change, it is important to continue monitoring environmental conditions to identify and analyze the effects that these changes could have on lobster stocks.

5.2.1   Protect lobster habitat.

5.2.2   Assess the risk of the fishery causing serious harm to habitat and vulnerable benthic communities.

5.2.3   Assess the risk of the fishery causing serious harm to non-targeted species stocks.

5.2.4   Assess bait needs and the risk of the fishery causing serious harm to bait species stocks, while adopting a comprehensive approach to management.

5.2.5   In the context of climate change, monitor environmental conditions and identify the effects on lobster stocks and the ecosystem.

5.2.6   Assess and consider the impact of the species that prey on lobster.

5.3 Improve compliance with fisheries regulations

The Conservation and Protection (C&P) branch of DFO continues to dedicate a large portion of its resources to monitoring the commercial fishery. Over the last few years, several strategies were developed to ensure compliance with critical measures.

All fishery stakeholders, as well as the public, need to be educated about the importance of adopting practices to ensure resource conservation and motivated to do so. In addition, given the resource’s proximity and how easy it is to access, the public should be the first target of any strategy seeking to reduce the intensity of poaching activities.

5.3.1   Develop a comprehensive approach involving all fishing industry participants to reduce illicit activity.

5.3.2   Adopt more deterrents to encourage compliance with regulations.

5.3.3   Continue the monitoring plan that addresses the critical management measures.

5.3.4   Within the limits of DFO's mandates and responsibilities, increase compliance monitoring with buyers, processors and sellers.

5.3.5   Educate and engage the public on the importance of complying with resource conservation regulations.

5.3.6   Standardize management measures across regions for fishing areas in the same production area.

5.4 Foster economic prosperity.

The industry develops through various marketing and fisheries diversification strategies that require DFO’s support. Among other considerations, management decisions must take into account the costs of lobster harvesting and the accessibility of fishing businesses to the next generation.

5.4.1   When making decisions, take into account the potential increase in operating costs associated with lobster management measures and keep them as low as possible.

5.4.2   Establish management measures that take into account the situation in the industry and support profitability for fishing businesses.

5.4.3   Within the limits of DFO's mandates and resources, support industry initiatives related to traceability, eco-certification and other marketing and fisheries diversification strategies

5.4.4   Industry should implement initiatives related to traceability, eco-certification and other marketing and fisheries diversification strategiesFootnote 4.

5.4.5   Promote accessibility of fishing businesses to the next generation.

5.5 Encourage the active participation of First Nations in the lobster fishery and the development of their capacities

Aboriginal communities, the industry and DFO have highlighted the importance of maintaining ongoing communications and a collaborative approach fostering participation of First Nations in decision-making processes. It is also crucial to help First Nations develop their capacities to create a prosperous and sustainable lobster fishery by providing financial leverage to communities.

5.5.1   Support First Nations’ participation in the lobster fishery and the development of their capacities.

5.5.2   Foster a prosperous and sustainable fishery by providing financial leverage to communities.

5.5.3   Foster First Nations’ participation in decision making.

5.5.4   Encourage communication between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples.

5.5.5   Educate the non-Aboriginal population on the importance of the food, social and ceremonial fishery.

5.5.6   Gather data on Aboriginal traditional knowledge and traditional ecological knowledge of lobster biology and population status.

5.6 Improve governance

It is necessary to maintain the existing consultation processes and implement a governance model that allows for active participation of fish harvesters and a comprehensive approach with coordination among all fisheries management decision makers.

5.6.1   Foster a local approach to fisheries management.

5.6.2   Maintain ongoing communication with associations and First Nations and ensure their involvement in decision making.

5.6.3   Encourage orderly use of fishing grounds.

5.6.4   Develop a collaborative, coherent management approach involving all levels of government.

6. Access and allocation

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

The commercial lobster fishery is a limited entry fishery, conducted in a competitive mode, as outlined in the Commercial Fisheries Licensing Policy for Eastern Canada (1996). In recent years, several fishing licences were retired to reduce the exploitation rate and restore stock abundance. Table 1 shows the number of active licences in each lobster fishing area and sub-area in the Gaspé in 2017.

No aquaculture licensing is planned in lobster or recreational fishing areas for this species.

The Mi'gmaq Nations of Gespeg, Listuguj and Gesgapegiag have access for food, social and ritual fishing as well as for commercial fishing. In the case of Gespeg and Gespgapegiag, their access to food, social and ritual fisheries is included into the commercial fishery that they practice under community licences at the same time as other licence holders.

The Gespeg and Listuguj of Gesgapegiag Mi’kmaq nations use commercial communal licences. Only the Listuguj Mi’kmaq nation fishes for food, social and ceremonial purposes during a distinct period in the fall.

7. Management measures for the duration of the plan

The lobster fishery in Areas 19, 20 and 21 is managed by effort controls. The elements controlled include fishing areas, period, gear and number characteristics, and the characteristics specific to the lobsters harvested (size, berried females, etc.). These management measures are what make the plan’s objectives operational.

The management measures that are applied in Lobster Fishing Areas 19 to 21 can be found in the Conservation and Harvesting Plan and are announced in “Notices to Fish Harvesters” at the start of each fishing season on the DFO Quebec Region website: https://inter-l01.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/applications/opti-opei/notice-avis-eng.php?region_id=4&sub_type_id=5&type=1&display_option=1.

7.1 Decision rules – Precautionary Approach

The decision rules established according to the Precautionary Approach allow the implementation of management measures depending on lobster stock status from the Gaspé Peninsula (LFAs 19, 20 and 21). During the workshop on the Precautionary Approach held in Chandler on November 26 and 27, 2013, the participating fishers endorsed the following statements:

In making its decisions, the Minister receives various recommendations, including those of the Lobster Local Advisory Committee for areas 19, 20 and 21. However, the Advisory Committee can not interfere with the Minister's discretionary powers conferred by the Fisheries Act. Thus, if he considers it necessary, the Minister may take measures that are not defined by the decision rules. In addition, management actions related to other ecosystem elements may also need to be considered by DFO when applying decision rules.

Healthy zone: when the stock is in the healthy zone, no new management measure will be implemented unless the advisory committee decides otherwise.

Cautious zone: the decision was made to adopt a six-year approach when the stock is in the cautious zone. Successive and additive conservation methods are used until stocks return to the healthy zone.

A first measure (increase the minimum catch size by 1 mm) will be implemented at the end of the second consecutive fishing season below the upper stock reference point (USR). The following year will be an observation year; no specific action will be taken. Afterwards, if stocks show another reduction with respect to the USR, two (2) successive 10% reductions of effort will be carried out over three (3) fishing years, Implementation of a conservation measure may be accelerated if the stock is in the lower range of the cautious zone, close to the limit reference point (LRP).

Critical zone: If, in spite of all measures, stocks reach this zone, more stringent measures will be applied to significantly reduce captures. Partial closure of the fishery will be imposed in the most problematic sub-areas.

Figure 16 illustrates predetermined actions based on Gaspé lobster stock indicators.

Figure 16 : Decision rules (predetermined actions) for each stock status zone (healthy, cautious and critical).

Source: DFO, Gaspé-Lower St. Lawrence (2013)

Graphic Chart
Description

Figure 16 shows the decision rules (predetermined actions) for each stock status area, which are healthy (the first green line), caution (the second yellow line), and critical (the last red line), of lobster from the Gaspé.

When landings, which serve as indicators, are above the Upper Stock Reference Point (USR), the stock is considered in the healthy zone and no action is planned. If necessary, target reference points (PR-Targets) at the biological or socio-economic level, for example, may be added.

When landings are between the USR and the LSR, the stock is in the caution zone (the yellow middle part in the figure). In this zone, the approach adopted for the application of the actions is done over 6 (six) years. If, at the end of the first year under the USR, landings still remain below this level, no action is planned. If, at the end of the second year, the landings remain under the USR, the increase in the minimum catch size of 1 mm will be the management measure that will be applied. Year 3 is a year of observation of the indicator. Thus, if the landings are still under the USR, no action is planned. At the end of the fourth year, if landings decrease under the USR, the reduction of the fishing effort by 10% will be put in place. Year 5 is a year of observation of the indicator. No action is planned. At the end of the sixth year, if landings decrease under the USR, a second reduction in fishing effort of 10% is planned.

When landings are under the LSR, the stock is considered to be in the critical area. The predetermined actions planned when the stock reaches this area are urgent, consisting of a partial closure of the fishery and the maintenance of a sentinel fishery. Fishing could be managed by effort or quota in case of extreme need. A rehabilitation plan will be established.

7.2 Area closures

In 2017, fishery closures were implemented as part of the Coral and Sponge Conservation Strategy in the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence. The purpose of this strategy is to protect oceans and coastlines, especially sensitive benthic areas. Eleven significant areas were identified as new marine refuges in which the use of bottom-contact fishing gear, including lobster traps, is prohibited, starting December 15, 2017. Some of these areas are in lobster fishing areas (Figure 17). More details about each of these areas is available on the DFO website: www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/oceans/oeabcm-amcepz/refuges/index-eng.html.

Figure 17 : Coral and sponge conservation areas and boundary lines of lobster fishing areas in the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Source: DFO, FAM, Quebec Region

Map
Description

This figure illustrates the location of coral and sponge conservation areas with delineations of lobster fishing areas in the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Zone Full Name
Anticosti-East East of Anticosti Island Sponge Conservation Area
Anticosti-South-East South-East of Anticosti Island Sponge Conservation Area
Beaugé Bank Beaugé Bank Sponge Conservation Area
Bennett Bank North of Bennett Bank Coral Conservation Area
Parent Bank Parent Bank Sponge Conservation Area
Gulf-Centre Central Gulf of St. Lawrence Coral Conservation Area
Gulf-East Eastern Gulf of St. Lawrence Coral Conservation Area
Honguedo-East Eastern Honguedo Strait Coral and Sponge Conservation Area
Honguedo-West Western Honguedo Strait Coral Conservation Area
Jacques-Cartier Jacques-Cartier Strait Sponge Conservation Area
Magdalen Shallows Slope Slope of Magdalen Shallows Coral Conservation Area

8. Shared stewardship arrangements

The advisory committee, as described in section 1.6, is the main component of shared stewardship in Lobster Fishing Areas 19, 20, and 21 (LFA 19, 20, and 21). The advisory committee is the main forum through which DFO consults fishing industry stakeholders, including lobster fishery representatives from each of the sub-areas, the RPPSG, and First Nations. Since 2012, he lobster advisory committee take place every three years since 2012.

Since 2003, annual workshops have been organized, which provide an opportunity to continue work on the main issues affecting the industry. This additional cooperative mechanism, co-chaired by the Gaspé-Lower St. Lawrence Area director and RPPSG management, was initiated by the RPPSG to better lay the groundwork for and frame the difficult conservation decisions to be made and to discuss the issues related to management of the lobster fishery, with the advisory committees (RPPSG 2009).

Industry representatives, First Nations and the DFO area office were in communication with each other throughout the year. This allowed resource users to play an even more active role in defining and operationalizing management measures that affected them.

9. Compliance Plan

9.1 Conservation and Protection Program Description

The Conservation and Protection (C&P) program promotes and maintains compliance with legislation, regulations and management measures implemented to achieve the conservation and sustainable use of Canada’s aquatic resources, and the protection of species at risk, fish habitat and oceans.

The program is delivered through a balanced regulatory management and enforcement approach including:

9.2 Execution of regional compliance programs

The C&P Program is responsible for compliance and enforcement work related to all the regional fisheries, as well as habitat protection, the Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program (CSSP) and other activities. Consequently, the time allotted to fishery surveillance will be primarily based on the assessment of the risk to which the resource is exposed.

Dockside monitoring makes up the majority of compliance activities carried out by fishery officers in the lobster fishery. Other surveillance activities are carried out through at-sea observation. Fishery officers on board patrol vessels may board any fishing vessel if they see fit. Monitoring activities are mainly concerned with fishing gear compliance (number, tags escape vents, biodegradeable mechanisms), catches (possession of berried females or lobsters smaller or larger than the allowed size), and electronic logbooks.

Compliance monitoring involves lobster buyers, processors and sellers. Each year, fishery officers run activities to educate the public about compliance with resource conservation regulations.

Fishery officers are also responsible for anti-poaching activities based on complaints received.

9.3 Consultations

C&P helps prepare and attends meetings of the Gaspé lobster advisory committee. C&P participates with resource managers in the development and implementation of management measures. Occasional discussions and work meetings are also held between Fisheries and Oceans Canada, RPPSG representatives and First Nations to address points of interest or resolve specific problems. C&P participates in informal discussions with all stakeholders during patrols, on the docks, in plants and in communities to promote resource conservation.

9.4 Compliance Performance

Surveillance efforts are measured by the number of work hours devoted to the Gaspé lobster fishery and the results reported reveal irregularities observed by fishery officers. Although the surveillance efforts earmarked for a fishery may vary from year to year depending on conservation priorities for the different species harvested in an area, an average of 15% of the time allotted for surveillance in the Gaspé and Lower St. Lawrence is dedicated to the lobster fishery.

An overview of the surveillance effort earmarked for the lobster fishery, compliance rates and the main type of violations is presented in Appendix 1.

9.5 Current compliance issues

One of the primary issues related to compliance is communication between fishery stakeholders and DFO. In fact, fishery officers must be able to communicate adequately with the industry, so that all management measures can be understood by all fishery stakeholders. Unharmonized management measures (such as the minimum catch size) in neighbouring areas can present problems for enforcement of legislation. On the other hand, in the interest of resource conservation, it is essential to combine the management of stocks that belong to the same production area. Also, with respect to the commercial fishery, landings of lobsters below the legal size and of berried females, and compliance of fishing gear used are other areas of concern for C&P. More deterrents must be adopted to encourage compliance with regulations. Given the accessibility of the resource, the community must be involved in its protection. Information and public involvement in lobster conservation activities help to reduce poaching.

9.6 Compliance strategy

Several measures will be implemented to address the above-mentioned issues. First, advisory committees which are held every three years, and workshops in the years where there are no advisory committees will help establish the necessary collaboration between DFO and the industry to ensure compliance of the fishery. Dockside and at-sea monitoring will be more targeted by taking into account the information received and the fish harvesters’ records. Random checks conducted by fishery officers will ensure that critical management measures are monitored, including compliance with the use of the electronic logbook (pilot project started in 2012).

The Poaching Alert program allows citizens to anonymously report illegal practices. Alleged poaching cases which may become major cases will be prioritized by fishery officers. Furthermore, over the next few years, compliance awareness and monitoring activities with processors and fish dealers will be increased. Lastly, fishery officers will also continue their information and education activities in schools and businesses in the region to raise awareness about resource conservation.

10. Performance review

This section of the IFMP defines the indicators that will serve to assess progress in reaching the objectives identified in Section 5. A list of qualitative and quantitative indicators is proposed. DFO will update these indicators annually to account for progress made. The update of these indicators can be found in Appendix 2.

Objective 5.1: Ensure sustainable harvesting of lobster
Sub-objective Indicators
5.1.1 Keep stock abundance in the healthy zone. Keep stock status indicators in the healthy zone.

Monitoring programs to obtain reliable, fisheries-independent indicators are developed
5.1.2 Protect reproductive potential. The minimum and maximum catch sizes are enforced in all areas and adjusted based on the reproductive characteristics of the stocks.
5.1.3 Reduce waste from ghost fishing and the impact of releases. Biodegradable panels and escape vents are 100% compliant.

Rot cords are smaller.

A system for managing the tracking of lost traps is put in place.

Good release practices are applied by all fishers, and work and initiatives related to good release practices reduce the impact of releases.
5.1.4 Consider population connectivity when establishing conservation and management measures. The connectivity of lobster populations is considered when establishing management and conservation measures.

Work and initiatives on population connectivity are undertaken.
5.1.5 Obtain reliable information on fisheries to support management and science processes. Work and initiatives to acquire fishery-independent data are in progress.

The implementation of electronic logbooks allows the Department integrates the data collected using logbooks into the national database.
5.1.6 Educate all industry stakeholders on conservation issues. Fishery officers undertake the initiatives of awareness and compliance monitoring initiatives with fish processors and dealers.
Objective 5.2: Develop and apply an ecosystem approach for the lobster fishery.
Sub-objective Indicators
5.2.1 Protect lobster habitat. Work on identifying important habitats and critical lobster habitat are in progress and activities affecting these habitats are identified.

The artificial reef project is continued.

Work and initiatives, in consultation with industry, related to the Marine Protected Area (MPA) Strategy are progressing.
5.2.2 Assess the risk of the fishery causing serious harm to habitat and vulnerable benthic communities.

 
The impacts of lobster and ghost fishing on habitats, species and benthic communities are assessed and documented.

Initiatives are put in place to identify habitats of importance for vulnerable benthic species and protection measures are in place.

The risks of the identified fisheries impacts are taken into account in the recommendations and decision making.
5.2.3 Assess the risk of the fishery causing serious harm to non-targeted species stocks. The RPPSG’s system for managing the tracking of lost traps is maintained, and the data are sent to DFO.

A system for managing the tracking of lost traps is implemented through electronic logbooks.

The data collected supports decision-making and scientific processes.

Data on marine mammal entanglements are collected and analyzed and new mitigation measures are put in place.

Cases of marine mammal entanglement in lobster trap ropes are recorded and decrease from year to year.

Bycatch is reported in electronic logbooks.

Work and initiatives are undertaken to document the impact of the fishery on bycatch.

Bycatch reduction strategies are put in place.

The catch of rock crab by lobster harvesters are taken into account in the rock crab stocks assessment.
5.2.4   Assess bait needs and the risk of the fishery causing serious harm to bait species stocks, while adopting a comprehensive approach to management. Implementation of a partial strategy to ensure that the lobster fishery does not hinder the recovery and rebuilding of the Canadian mackerel stock and all pelagic species.

Work meeting held with the various regions to develop a joint management strategy for bait species.

The initiatives in place reduce the use of rock crab and mackerel as bait.

The development of fishery-independent indicators of rock crab stock trends supports management and conservation decisions and science processes.
5.2.5 In the context of climate change, monitor environmental conditions and identify the effects on lobster stocks and the ecosystem. Progress in work to monitor environmental conditions and identify the effects of climate change on lobster stocks and the ecosystem.
5.2.6 Assess and consider the impact of the species that prey on lobster. Implementation of collaborative initiatives among the different levels of government to manage the striped bass.
Objective 5.3: Improve compliance with fisheries regulations
Sub-objective Indicators
5.3.1 Develop a comprehensive approach involving all fishing industry participants to reduce illicit activity. Maintenance, throughout the year, of advisory committee meetings, workshops, and ongoing communications between the RPPSG, First Nations and DFO.

Management is by sub-area
5.3.2 Adopt more deterrents to encourage compliance with regulations. Continued work on initiatives to allow contravention records to be issued pursuant to the Contraventions Act.
5.3.3 Continue the monitoring plan that addresses the critical management measures. Number of hours allocated to the lobster fishery.

Compliant use of electronic logbooks is 100%.
5.3.4 Increase compliance monitoring with buyers, processors and sellers. Number of compliance check activities with buyers, processors and sellers.
5.3.5 Educate and engage the public on the importance of complying with resource conservation regulations. Number of information meetings in schools (number of students met).

Number of individuals intercepted while poaching during the current year compared to previous years.
5.3.6 Standardize management measures across regions for fishing areas in the same production area. Work meetings are held between regions for fishing areas in the same production area, and initiatives to standardize management measures are implemented.
Objective 5.4: Foster economic prosperity
Sub-objective Indicators
5.4.1 When making decisions, take into account the potential increase in operating costs associated with lobster management measures and keep them as low as possible. Impact of new initiatives associated with lobster fishery management on the operating costs of lobster harvesters taken into account.
5.4.2 Establish management measures that take into account the situation in the industry and support profitability for fishing businesses. Number of businesses that take advantage of flexibility measures (temporary and permanent merger, traps transfer).
5.4.3 As much as possible with DFO mandates and resources, support industry initiatives related to traceability, eco-certification and other marketing and fisheries diversification strategies Progress in work carried out by DFO to support the industry.

Achievement and maintenance of MSC sustainable fishery certification conditions.
5.4.4 Industry should implement initiatives related to traceability, eco-certification and other marketing and fisheries diversification strategies. Progress in initiatives related to traceability and eco-certification.

Commercial tourist fishery is developped
5.4.5 Promote accessibility of fishing businesses to the next generation. Research initiatives and implementation of measures facilitate the facilitate access to fishing business for the next generation.
Objective 5.5: Encourage the active participation of First Nations in the lobster fishery and the development of their capacities
Sub-objective Indicators
5.5.1 Support First Nations’ participation in the lobster fishery and the development of their capacities. First Nations are supported in terms of their technical and financial needs, development of their capacities, and in the implementation of various programs and CHPs.
5.5.2 Foster a prosperous and sustainable fishery by providing financial leverage to communities. Percentage of harvesting performed by an Aboriginal crew using equipment belonging to the communities

Marketing initiatives are put in place.
5.5.3 Foster First Nations’ participation in decision making. Initiatives to increase First Nations participation in advisory processes are implemented.
5.5.4 Support communication between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples. Non-native fisheries stakeholders participate in Aboriginal Fisheries Workshops.
5.5.5 Educate the non-Aboriginal population on the importance of the food, social and ceremonial fishery. Awareness initiatives about the food, social and ceremonial fishery are implemented.
5.5.6 Gather data on Aboriginal traditional knowledge and traditional ecological knowledge of lobster biology and population status. Aboriginal traditional knowledge and traditional ecological knowledge of lobster biology and population status are considered when making management decisions and in scientific processes.
Objective 5.6: Improve governance
Sub-objective Indicators
5.6.1 Foster a local approach to fisheries management. Management of the lobster fishery is maintained by area and sub-area.
5.6.2 Maintain ongoing communication with associations and First Nations and ensure their involvement in decision making. Communications between RPPSG, First Nations and DFO are maintained throughout the year through advisory committees and workshops
5.6.3   Encourage orderly use of fishing grounds. Measures to minimize conflicts between lobster harvesters and other fishing activities are developed and implemented.
5.6.4 Develop a collaborative, coherent management approach involving all levels of government. Meetings are held with different levels of government regarding common issues.

11. Glossary

12. Bibliography

Appendix 1 : Enforcement Measures for Duration of the Plan

Table 2: Fishery officer patrol hours expended on the Gaspé lobster fishery from 2013 to 2017.
Year 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Number of patrol hours 652 539 489 576 712
Table 3: Total monitoring effort expended on the Gaspé lobster fishery from 2013 to 2016 (%).
Year 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Total monitoring effort (%) 16% 14% 12% 16% 18%
Table 4: Number of violations detected by fishery officers in the Gaspé lobster fishery from 2013 to 2017.
Year 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Warnings issued 13 67 47 34 38
Charges laid 10 15 9 7 7
Total (number of violations) 23 82 56 41 45
Table 5: Index of compliance in the Gaspé lobster fishery from 2013 to 2017.
Year 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Number of checks 131 147 131 98 110
Number of violations 23 82 56 41 45
Non-compliance rate 17.56% 55.78% 42.75% 41.84% 40.91%
Table 6: Main types of offences in the lobster fishery from 2013 to 2017.
Offence 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Unlicensed possession of a lobster tank 0 0 1 0 0
Fishing out of bounds 2 0 1 2 0
Inaccurate or incomplete tag logbook 0 0 2 5 0
Untagged or invalid traps 1 1 3 0 1
Surplus of traps 1 1   0 0
Non-compliant escape vents 1 1 2 0 2
Possession of egg-bearing/mutilated female lobsters 5 5 1 3 1
Possession under the legal size limit 5 3 2 3 1
Poaching (fishing without a licence) 3 3 1 7 3
Incomplete electronic logbook - - - - 2
Total 18 14 13 20 10

Appendix 2 : Post-Season Review

Last update May 18th 2018.
Objective Expected outcome Performance indicator Post-season outcome
5.1 Ensure sustainable harvesting of lobster.
5.1.1 Keep stock abundance in the healthy zone. The precautionary approach is implemented and followed, and the stocks remain in the healthy zone. The stock status indicators remain in the healthy zone. Since 2013: The precautionary approach is in place and is used when reviewing stock status.

Since 2013: The stocks remain in the healthy zone.
Reliable, fisheries-independent indicators support implementation of the precautionary approach. Monitoring programs to obtain reliable, fisheries-independent indicators are developed. Since 2013: Some fisheries-independent indicators are collected using traps (standard, or modified by closing the escape vents).
5.1.2 Protect reproductive potential. The minimum catch size is maintained and take into account the reproductive characteristics of the stocks.

The maximum size is implemented in areas 19 and 21.
The minimum and maximum catch sizes are enforced in all areas and take into account the reproductive characteristics of the stocks.

 
Minimum size in 2016:

Area 19: 83 mm

Areas 20 and 21: Increasing the minimal size from 82 mm to 82,55 in 2018.

Maximum size:

Areas 19 and 21:  Established at 155 mm since 2016, it has increased to 150 mm in 2018 and will be 145 mm in 2020.
5.1.3 Reduce waste from ghost fishing and the impact of releases. The management measures put in place and adopted consistently reduce waste from ghost fishing. Biodegradable panels and escape vents are 100% compliant.

Rot cords are smaller.

A system for managing the tracking of lost traps is put in place.
2018:  Obligation to declare gear allowed under license conditions

2016: The traps checked by fishery officers are 100% compliant.

Since 2013: The RPPSG has been tracking lost traps.
  The impact of releases is reduced. Good release practices are applied by all fishers, and work and initiatives related to good release practices reduce the impact of releases on egg-bearing female and juveniles. Most fishers apply good release practices.
5.1.4 Consider population connectivity when establishing management and conservation measures. As a result of work and initiatives related to population connectivity, a comprehensive approach is used when making management and conservation decisions regarding fishing areas in the same production area. The connectivity of lobster populations is considered when establishing management and conservation measures.

Work and initiatives on population connectivity are undertaken.

 
2018:   A major NSERC research project on the connectivity of populations in Eastern Canada is in progress.

2016: A maximum catch size limit is implemented in areas 19 and 21.
5.1.5 Obtain reliable information on fisheries to support management and science processes. Fishery-independent data are available to support management decision making and science processes. Work and initiatives to acquire fishery-independent data are in progress. Some indicators are based on fishery-independent data, thanks to post-season surveys conducted with traps (standard or modified).
The implementation of electronic logbooks allows access to reliable fishery information. The implementation of electronic logbooks allows the Department integrates the data collected using logbooks into the national database. In 2017, two electronic logbooks were poorly completed.

Effective 2017: The data collected will be used to support science processes.

Since 2012, the use of electronic logbook is mandatory.
5.1.6 Educate all industry stakeholders on conservation issues. Fishery officers conduct compliance checks in processing plants while educating fish processors and dealers.

 
Fishery officers undertake the initiatives of awareness and compliance monitoring initiatives with fish processors and dealers. 2016: approximatively 5 awareness and compliance monitoring activities were conducted by fishery officers with the roughly 50 fish processors and dealers in the Gaspé.
5.2 Develop and apply an ecosystem approach for the lobster fishery.
5.2.1 Protect lobster habitat. Important habitat is identified and protected. Work on identifying important habitats and critical lobster habitat are in progress and activities affecting these habitats are identified.

 
2018: Formation of a working group on the development of a less harmful gear in the sea-cucumber fishery.

2017: Through various projects over the years, habitats of importance to the lobster at each stage of its development have been identified.

2014: Two scallop fishing licenses in Area 19A were bought back by the RPPSG to limite the impact of drag fishing on the lobster habitat.
The artificial reef project is continued. 2012 to 2015: 36 artificial reefs created in the southern Gaspé.
Work and initiatives, in consultation with industry, related to the Marine Protected Area (MPA) Strategy are progressing. 2017: Implementation of closure zones for the protection of corals and sponges in the Gulf of St. Lawrence

Since 2014: The MPA Network has been working to create MPAs.

2005: The Federal MPA Strategy is released.
5.2.2 Assess the risk of the fishery causing serious harm to habitat and vulnerable benthic communities. Work and initiatives to document and to limit the impact of fishing as well as ghost fishing on species and habitat are progressing. Initiatives are put in place to identify habitats of importance for vulnerable benthic species and protection measures are in place.

The impacts of lobster and ghost fishing on habitats, species and benthic communities are assessed and documented.

The risks of the identified fisheries impacts are taken into account in the recommendations and decision making.
Since 2013:  Monitoring the medium and long-term impacts of sea cucumber fishing on cucumber, its habitat and other species.

All hybrid traps must have an exit panel secured by unique fasteners that comply with the regulations.

2018:  Obligation to declare gear for all fisheries.
5.2.3 Assess the risk of the fishery causing serious harm to non-targeted species stocks.

 
The system for managing the tracking of lost traps makes it possible to assess the risk of ghost fishing harming habitat and vulnerable benthic communities. The RPPSG’s system for managing the tracking of lost traps is maintained, and the data are sent to DFO.

A system for managing the tracking of lost traps is implemented through electronic logbooks.
2018:  Obligation to declare gear allowed under license conditions

2015: 312 traps were lost at sea.

Since 2013: The RPPSG has been tracking lost traps.
Progress in work and initiatives to document and limit the impact of the lobster fishery on habitat and benthic communities. The data collected supports management decision-making and scientific processes. The work done on the impact of lobster traps on habitat and benthic communities has shown that it was relatively low.

2017: Implementation of closure zones for the protection of corals and sponges in the Gulf of St. Lawrence

2016: Harmonization of the diameter of the circular escape vents with those used in the rock crab fishery for the protection of sub-legal crabs.

Since 2014, the MPA Network has been working on the creation of MPAs.
  Progress in work on marine mammal entanglements in ropes, and the adoption of mitigation measures. Data on marine mammal entanglements are collected and analyzed and new mitigation measures are put in place. 2018: Obligation to declare interactions with marine mammals in the conditions of licence.

2018:  It is forbidden to let float on the surface of the water a rope tying a trap to a main buoy.

Since 2010: Trap lines must consist of at least six traps. The maximum authorized distance between each trap on the same line is 12 fathoms (72 feet).
  Mitigation measures reduce the number of marine mammal entanglements. Cases of marine mammal entanglement in lobster trap ropes are recorded and decrease from year to year. Between 2004 and 2014: About one marine mammal entanglement in a lobster trap line in Quebec is reported to the QMMERN per year.
  The bycatch reduction strategies in place reduce the impact of the lobster fishery on non-target species. Bycatch is reported in electronic logbooks.

Work and initiatives are undertaken to document the impact of the fishery on bycatch.

Bycatch reduction strategies are put in place.

The catch of rock crab by lobster harvesters are taken into account in the rock crab stocks assessment.
2018: Annual monitoring of bycatch (since 2012) via logbooks and integration into scientific monitoring.

2016: Increase in the size of single-fastener and escape panels.

2012 and 2015: Merinov conducts bycatch studies at the request of the RPPSG.

All hybrid traps must have an exit panel secured by unique fasteners that comply with the regulations.
5.2.4 Assess bait needs and the risk of the fishery causing serious harm to bait species stocks, while adopting a comprehensive approach to management. A formal partial strategy consisting of accepted and effective measures ensures that the lobster fishery does not hinder the recovery and rebuilding of the Canadian mackerel stock.

The regions show consistency and collaboration in establishing management measures.
Implementation of a partial strategy to ensure that the lobster fishery does not hinder the recovery and rebuilding of the Canadian mackerel stock and all pelagic species.

Work meeting held with the various regions to develop a joint management strategy for bait species.
2017: A working group has been set up to develop a mackerel recovery plan and first met in December.

The new mackerel stock assessment model takes into account unreported catches, such as recreational fishing and bait fishing in some areas

2017: Discussions take place within the Department to ensure consistency between the regions in managing bait species.

2015: At the request of the RPPSG, logbooks are changed so that Canadian mackerel used as bait can be quantified.
  Progress in initiatives to reduce the use of rock crab and mackerel as bait. The initiatives in place reduce the use of rock crab and mackerel as bait.

The development of fishery-independent indicators of rock crab stock trends supports management and conservation decisions and science processes.
Two rock crab licences were bought back by the RPPSG.

Since 2012: Merinov has conducted studies to develop alternatives to using species as bait, such as the use of artificial baits.
5.2.5 In a climate change context, monitor environmental conditions and identify the effects on lobster stocks and the ecosystem.  Environmental conditions are monitored.

The effects of climate change on lobster stocks and the ecosystem are identified and analyzed.
Progress in work to monitor environmental conditions and identify the effects of climate change on lobster stocks and the ecosystem. 2018: Work in progress.
5.2.6 Assess and consider the impact of the species that prey on lobster. Collaborative management of the species that prey on lobster.

The impact of predator species on lobster abundance is analyzed and considered.
Implementation of collaborative initiatives among the different levels of government to manage the striped bass.

 
2016: Collaborative project between DFO and the Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs (MFFP) on the striped bass’s diet at sites attractive to crustaceans.

2015 and 2016: At workshops on lobster and Aboriginal fisheries, the MFFP discussed the status of the striped bass population.
5.3. Improve compliance with fisheries regulations
5.3.1 Develop a comprehensive approach involving all fishing industry participants to reduce illicit activity. The structures implemented allow for communication among all stakeholders in the lobster fishery. Maintenance, throughout the year, of advisory committee meetings, workshops, and ongoing communications between the RPPSG, First Nations and DFO. Advisory committees meet every three years. Since 2006, workshops have been held in the years when the advisory committee has not met. The RPPSG, First Nations and DFO remain in contact year round to discuss issues pertaining to the lobster fishery.
Sub-areas allow fishers to be more involved in fisheries management and compliance monitoring. Management is by sub-area The management is by sub-area and representatives from all sub-areas participate in advisory committee meetings.
5.3.2 Adopt more deterrents to encourage compliance with regulations. Issuing contravention records under the Contraventions Act and the weight of sentences show fishers the importance of compliance. Continued work on initiatives to allow contravention records to be issued pursuant to the Contraventions Act. 2018: Discussions are underway to allow contravention records to be issued pursuant to the Contraventions Act.

Since 2006, the weight of sentences applied for contraventions has increased.
5.3.3 Continue the monitoring plan that addresses the critical management measures. Maintain effective monitoring of landing locations and at sea and increase monitoring frequency. Number of hours allocated to the lobster fishery surveillance. Number of hours allocated to the lobster fishery surveillance:

2016: 576

2015: 489
Electronic logbooks allow for monitoring of critical management measures. Compliant use of electronic logbooks is 100%. 2017: tow electronic logbooks were poorly completed

Since 2012, all fishers now use electronic logbooks.
5.3.4 Increase compliance monitoring with buyers, processors and sellers. Increase buyers’, processors’ and sellers’ compliance. Number of compliance check activities with buyers, processors and sellers. Number of compliance check activities:

2016: 98

2015: 131
5.3.5 Educate and engage the public on the importance of complying with resource conservation regulations. Maintain informational tours of elementary schools.

Maintain the Poaching Alert program to decrease poaching incidents.

Decrease the number of individuals intercepted while poaching.

 
Number of information/awareness meetings in schools (number of students met).

Number of individuals intercepted while poaching during the current year compared to previous years.
Number of students met:

2016: 135 students

2015: 1049 students

Individuals intercepted while poaching:

2017: 3

2016: 7

2015: 1

2018: The Poaching Alert program was maintained.
5.3.6 Standardize management measures across regions for fishing areas in the same production area. Discussions and initiatives make it possible to standardize minimum and maximum sizes across regions. Work meetings are held between regions for fishing areas in the same production area, and initiatives to standardize management measures are implemented. 2018: Discussions are in progress within the Department to develop strategies to ensure consistency between the regions.
5.4 Foster economic prosperity.
5.4.1 When making decisions, take into account the potential increase in operating costs associated with lobster management and keep them as low as possible. Impact of new initiatives associated with lobster fishery management on the operating costs of lobster harvesters is taken into account for decision-making.

 
Impact of new initiatives associated with lobster fishery management on the operating costs of lobster harvesters taken into account.

Special attention is paid to the impact of management decisions on the operating costs of lobster harvesters.
5.4.2 Establish management measures that are tailored to fishers’ issues and that support profitability for fishing businesses. The management measures established are tailored to fishers’ issues and support profitability for fishing businesses. Number of businesses that take advantage of flexibility measures (temporary and permanent merger, traps transfer). Two businesses took advantage of the option to perform a temporary merger (none in 2017).

2017: Added measures to allow the transfer of traps.

From 2014 to 2017: Six businesses took advantage of the option to perform a permanent merger.
5.4.3  As much as possible with DFO mandates and resources, support industry initiatives related to traceability, eco-certification and other marketing and fisheries diversification strategies. DFO’s support has a positive impact on the industry’s position in the lobster fishery market. Progress in work carried out by DFO to support the industry.

Achievement and maintenance of MSC sustainable fishery certification conditions.
2015 to 2018: Fisheries and Oceans Canada is working to develop an IFMP for the Gaspé lobster fishery and implement a partial strategy for the recovery and rebuilding of the Canadian mackerel stock.

2017:  The conditions of the MSC sustainable fishing certificate are maintained.
5.4.4 Industry should implement initiatives related to traceability, eco-certification and other marketing and fisheries diversification strategies. Fisheries marketing and diversification strategies support the economic prosperity of the lobster fishing industry. Progress in initiatives related to traceability and eco-certification.

The commercial tourist fishery is developed.
The Gaspé lobster fishery has been eco-certified since 2015.

Since 2013, the RPPSG has been carrying out public relations campaigns in order to promote the lobster of Gaspésie.

Since 2012, 100% of Gaspé lobster have been identified with tags indicating where they came from (traceability to the fisherman).
5.4.5 Promote accessibility of fishing businesses to the next generation. Management measures promote accessibility of fishing businesses to the next generation. Research initiatives and implementation of measures facilitate the access to fishing business for the next generation. 2017: Following consultation of fishers, changes are adopted to the business merger rules to promote accessibility to the next generation, to continue reducing the fishing effort, to facilitate the monitoring and control of traps, to ensure compliance with owner-operator policies and to limit speculation on the value of licenses.
5.5 Active participation of First Nations in the lobster fishery and development of their capacities
5.5.1 Support First Nations’ participation in the lobster fishery and the development of their capacities. DFO programs contribute to strengthening First Nations’ ability to actively participate in fisheries management. First Nations are supported in terms of their technical and financial needs, development of their capacities, and in the implementation of various programs and CHPs. The AFS (since 1992), PAGRO (since 2004) and the AICFI (since 2007) support community participation in fisheries management.

From 1997 to 2004: 14 licences were purchased from commercial fishers to make them available to Gaspésie Mi’kmaq communities. DFO invested in purchasing fishing equipment.
5.5.2 Foster a prosperous and sustainable fishery by providing financial leverage to communities. The vast majority of the fishing crew is Aboriginal, the equipment belongs to the communities, and the Aboriginal lobster licences are used to their full potential.

Marketing initiatives increase the local economic benefits to communities.
Percentage of harvesting performed by an Aboriginal crew using equipment belonging to the communities.

Marketing initiatives are put in place.
2016: The lobster licence use rates are 84% by members of the communities.

2015: Fishing uses vessels belonging to the First Nations, and the vast majority of crews are Aboriginal.

2014: A lobster marketing business is established in Gesgapegiag and a similar project is in the works in Listuguj.
5.5.3 Foster First Nations’ participation in decision making. First Nations participate actively in advisory committee meetings. Initiatives to increase First Nations participation in advisory processes are implemented. 2018: Participation of certain First Nations in advisory committee meetings is inconsistent or non-existent.

Since 2001: First Nations are invited to participate advisory committee meetings.

2000: A commercial fisheries liaison coordinator for First Nations is created.
5.5.4 Foster communication between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples. Annual workshops on Aboriginal fisheries with non-Aboriginal fisheries stakeholders are held every year. Non-native fisheries stakeholders participate in Aboriginal Fisheries Workshops. Since 2010: Workshops on Aboriginal fisheries attended by non-Aboriginal stakeholders take place each year.
5.5.5 Educate the non-Aboriginal population on the importance of the food, social and ceremonial fishery. Through the initiatives implemented, commercial fishers and the public are educated about, understand, and accept the importance of the food, social and ceremonial fishery. Awareness initiatives about the food, social and ceremonial fishery are implemented. Education activities led by fishery officers in schools, which Aboriginal fishers sometimes participate in, cover the food, social and ceremonial fishery.
5.5.6 Gather data on Aboriginal traditional knowledge and traditional ecological knowledge of lobster biology and population status. Aboriginal traditional knowledge and traditional ecological knowledge of lobster biology and population status support management decisions and scientific processes. Aboriginal traditional knowledge and traditional ecological knowledge of lobster biology and population status are considered when making management decisions and in scientific processes. 2018: There is little Aboriginal traditional knowledge of lobster in the literature.

First Nations’ participation was solicited to gather Aboriginal traditional knowledge of lobster.
5.6 Improve governance.
5.6.1 Foster a local approach to fisheries management. Subdivision of fishing areas and engagement of fishers in the importance of adopting fishing practices that ensure the continued health of the sector. Management of the lobster fishery is maintained by area and sub-area. 2017: Fishers are active in monitoring their peers. The majority have compliant fishing practices.

2015: The 3 fishing areas are divided into 28 sub-areas.
5.6.2 Maintain ongoing communication with associations and First Nations and ensure their involvement in decision making. Industry members are consulted for all initiatives to develop new fisheries, aquaculture projects, and marine protected areas, and any other topics related to management of the lobster fishery. Communications between RPPSG, First Nations and DFO are maintained throughout the year through advisory committees and workshops Advisory committees meet every three years. Since 2006, workshops have been held in the years when the advisory committee has not met. The RPPSG, First Nations and DFO remain in contact year round to discuss issues pertaining to the lobster fishery.
5.6.3 Encourage orderly use of fishing grounds. No use conflicts. Measures to minimize conflicts between lobster harvesters and other fishing activities are developed and implemented. 2016: Officers pay special attention to management of floating lines.

2016: Few occasions of non-compliance with sub-area boundaries are noted.

2015: The change in depth for the sea cucumber fishery reduces use conflicts.
5.6.4 Develop a collaborative, consistent management approach involving all levels of government Common understanding and coordination of different issues pertaining to the lobster fishery, such as lobster predatory and prey species management. Meetings are held with different levels of government regarding common issues. 2015 and 2016: Presentations by the MFFP on salmon and striped bass at the lobster workshop (2015) and the Aboriginal fisheries workshop (2016).

Appendix 3 : Resources

Name and Title Address Contact Numbers
Érick St-Laurent

Area Director

Fisheries and Oceans Canada
120 De la Reine Street

Gaspé, Quebec

G4X 2R2
Tel: 418-368-5559

Fax: 418-368-4349
Magalie Hardy

Resource Manager

Fisheries and Oceans Canada
120 De la Reine Street

Gaspé, Quebec

G4X 2R2
Tel: 418-368-5559

Fax: 418-368-4349
Jean-François Sylvestre

Area Chief, Conservation and Protection

Fisheries and Oceans Canada
120 De la Reine Street

Gaspé, Quebec

G4X 2R2
Tel: 418-368-5559

Fax: 418-368-4349
Évelyne Dufault

Acting Manager

Strategic Services

Fisheries and Oceans Canada
104 Dalhousie Street

Québec, Quebec

G1K 7Y7
Tel: 418-648-5926

Fax: 418-649-8003
Benoît Bruneau

Biologist

Fisheries Science and Aquaculture

Fisheries and Oceans Canada
PO Box 1000

Mont-Joli, Quebec

G5H 3Z4
Tel: 418-775-0677

Fax: 418-775-0740
O’Neil Cloutier

Director

Regroupement des pêcheurs professionnels du sud de la Gaspésie (RPPSG)
31-201 Commerciale Street West

Chandler, Quebec

G0C 1K0
Tel: 418-689-5055

Fax: 418-689-5037
Jean Côté

Biologist

Regroupement des pêcheurs professionnels du sud de la Gaspésie (RPPSG)
31-201 Commerciale Street West

Chandler, Quebec

G0C 1K0
Tel: 418-689-5055

Fax: 418-689-5037

Appendix 4 : Safety at Sea

Vessel owners and masters have a duty to ensure the safety of their crew and vessel. Adherence to safety regulations and good practices by owners, masters and crew of fishing vessels will help save lives, protect the vessel from damage and protect the environment. All fishing vessels must be in a seaworthy condition and maintained as required by Transport Canada (TC) regulations.

In the federal government, responsibility for navigation and vessel safety regulations and inspections lies with Transport Canada (TC); emergency response and search and rescue with the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG); and management of fisheries resources with DFO. In Quebec, the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé, et de la sécurité au travail (CNESST) has a mandate to prevent occupational accidents and illness on board fishing vessels. These organizations all work together to promote a culture of safety at sea and of environmental protection with the Quebec fisheries community.

The yearly meeting of the Comité permanent sur la sécurité des bateaux de pêche du Québec, which consists of all organizations involved in safety at sea, provides an annual forum for discussion of and information on all issues related to fishing vessel safety, such as design, construction, maintenance, operations, and inspection, as well as training and certification for marine fishers. Any other topics of interest related to fishing vessel safety and environmental protection can be presented and discussed. Fishers can also discuss safety issues related to the species management plan (e.g. fisheries opening dates) at advisory committee meetings held by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Remember that before leaving on a fishing trip, the owner, master, or operator must ensure that the fishing vessel is capable of performing its activities safely. Factors critical to fishing trips include vessel seaworthiness and stability, having the required safety equipment on board and in good working order, crew training, and knowledge of current and forecasted weather.

During the authorized fishing season, the captain is responsible for keeping up with marine safety notices from agencies such as Environment and Climate Change Canada and Transport Canada, as well as safety standards and best practices.

Appendix 5 : Strategic research plan

Strategic Research Plan for the American Lobster
(Homarus americanus)

(SRPL)

2013–2017

 

 

DFO - Quebec Region
Demersal and Benthic Science Branch
MLI, Mont-Joli, QC

1. Background

1.1 DFO's Purpose and responsibilities

As stated in its Report on Plans and Priorities 2014-15 (/rpp/2014-15/SO1/so-rs-1-eng.html), DFO, through sound science and forward-looking policy, DFO works toward the following strategic outcomes:1) economically prosperous maritime sectors and fisheries; 2) sustainable aquatic ecosystems; and 3) safe and secure waters. These outcomes are part of DFO’s vision, which is to advance sustainable aquatic ecosystems and to support safe and secure Canadian waters while fostering economic prosperity across maritime sectors and in fisheries.

DFO conducts scientific research and assessments and provides advice to management to support the prosperity of the sustainable development of all resources, ensures that decisions are based on the best knowledge available and that future events, such as climate change, are taken into account in planning. The Department also communicates proactively with Canadians and the marketplace to ensure that relevant, factual and timely information is available at all times.

The strategic outcome "Economically Prosperous Maritime Sectors and Fisheries" is delivered through 11 programs and 11 subprograms. One of these programs is Integrated Fisheries Management, which contains a subprogram for Commercial Fisheries and another for the Fisheries Science Collaborative Program.

The role of Integrated Fisheries Management is to sustainably manage Canada’s fishery resources in consultation with Aboriginal groups, other federal departments, other levels of government, industry, and other stakeholders. This is accomplished through the delivery of policies, programs and plans (such as the Integrated Fisheries Management Plans, Conservation and Harvesting Plans, Rebuilding Plans, Recovery Strategies, and Action Plans) under the Fisheries Act, the Species at Risk Act, and related regulations. This program is necessary to promote sustainability and the allocation and distribution of harvestable resources among those dependent on the fishery. The program is based on scientific assessments of fish, invertebrates and marine mammals and is supported by the development of fisheries policies and strategies. The Commercial Fisheries subprogram takes into account conservation and socio-economic factors to manage fishery resources for the benefit of Canadians. The program integrates scientific expertise, including scientific assessments (monitoring, research and data) on the status of fish, invertebrates and marine mammals, input from Aboriginal groups, other government departments, other levels of government, and stakeholders to develop and implement fishing plans.

The activities of the Fisheries Science Collaborative subprogram offer the Department a significant and unique opportunity to collect fisheries science data to assess the abundance and distribution of fisheries resources. Through collaborative science activities with the Atlantic fishing industry, the Fisheries Science Collaborative Program enables the capture of these data and enhances core stock assessment activities while contributing to the knowledge base that supports resource management decisions. Collaborative initiatives with the Atlantic fishing industry are reviewed on an annual basis to ensure that projects are aligned with fisheries science priorities and conservation requirements.

1.2 DFO Strategic Science Plan

The purpose of the 2007–2012 DFO Strategic Science Plan, which is currently being updated, is to provide information and advice within the scope of programs related to DFO's mandate, including management of commercial fishery resources. The Science program integrates five functions: 1) monitoring, which involves collecting information and data in ocean and freshwater environments; 2) data management for integration into comprehensive data sets; 3) research, for undertaking work that supports current and future departmental objectives; 4) peer-reviewed scientific advice; and 5) the production of scientific data and services.

The SRPL was developed for the entire Quebec Region and includes the Magdalen Islands, the Gaspé, North Shore and Anticosti Island sectors. It meets departmental mandates and integrates the functions described in the DFO Strategic Science Plan. In recent years, lobster research activities were also planned to provide responses to FRCC concerns and recommendations (1995 and 2007). Another purpose of the SRPL described here is to meet MSC criteria (under certain parts of principles 1 and 2) so that fisheries can obtain and/or keep their certification. The work undertaken in the SRPL revolves around five areas:

The first area of research is DBSB’s priority and is the subject of an annual DFO Science work plan. The second area is also a DBSB priority that is fulfilled by DFO Science (in partnership with the industry for some components). Deliverables for this work are scientific advice on stock status and research documents posted on the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) website.

The third area is part of a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) capture fisheries research network for the 2010–2015 period (with a request having been made for the genomics component for 2015–2018). Deliverables for this area of research are mainly primary publications. Some aspects of this work can be integrated into CSAS advice and research documents.

The fourth component includes research conducted in support of management, industry and community (especially Aboriginal community) concerns. The outcomes of this work are generally published in DFO Technical Reports. Some aspects of this work can be integrated into CSAS advice and research documents.

Lastly, through various research programs carried out in the Quebec Region and dealing with various issues (species at risk, protected areas, impacts of aquaculture on the ecosystem, invasive species, and climate change), other work affecting lobster directly or indirectly is being carried out with the ecosystem in mind. The outcomes may be the subject of primary publications, DFO Technical Reports, or be integrated into CSAS advice and research documents.

Stock status assessment is based on a review of a possible 15 indicators reflecting abundance, demographics, fishing pressure, and stock productivity (reproduction and recruitment), as well as two environmental indicators (temperature and bycatches) (Gendron and Savard 2012). The number of indicators varies by fishing area (LFA), and the Gaspé (mainly LFA 20) and Magdalen Islands (LFA 22) areas are the best documented (see tables 8 and 9 in Gendron and Savard 2012). Stock status assessments are performed by examining the trends of the various indicators in relation to a reference period and based on conservation objectives. Stocks are assessed every three years, but key indicators are updated the year before the assessment in order to determine whether the situation would require the assessment to be done earlier. Data are still collected in years when there are no assessments.

Stock assessment is an ongoing and recurring SRPL activity.

Since 2012 on the Magdalen Islands (Gendron and Savard 2012) and 2014 in Gaspé (DFO 2014), landings have been used as stock status indicators as part of a precautionary approach (PA) to determine whether the stock is in the healthy, precautionary or critical area. This approach also contains decision rules regarding management measures to adopt based on the area where the stock is located. These rules are listed in the various fishing areas’ Integrated Fisheries Management Plans (IFMPs). The PA was developed in compliance with the fishery decision-making framework incorporating the PA (DFO 2009). It takes into account discussions held at a zonal workshop on PA application frameworks for fisheries managed by effort (DFO 2010) and the findings of a report, prepared by a consultant at DFO’s request, on implementing the PA in Canadian lobster fisheries (DFO 2011).

The PA that was just developed for Quebec lobster stocks is a first step. The work will continue in the future to develop stock status indicators (other than landings) that may be unaffected by management measures.

The PA developed will be used in the next stock status review.

At the workshop on the PA for lobster (DFO 2010), use of a stock assessment model to assess the impacts of management measures on the stocks was recommended. Also suggested was use of the Bayesian model developed by researchers at the University of Maine in Orono (Dr. Yong Chen’s laboratory) for Gulf of Maine lobster stocks. A workshop was held to adapt the model to the Canadian situation by using the Magdalen Islands data as a case study (Tremblay 2011). The model is structured according to size, sex and season and describes population and lobster fishery dynamics. It is made up of four components: 1) a size-structured model describing the dynamics of the lobster population; 2) a series of observational models, which link the population dynamics model to observations from the fishery and surveys, including a priori probabilities for certain parameters of the model; 3) a Bayesian estimator that fits the model to data for estimating key parameters for the lobster population and fishery (a maximum likelihood estimator is also available); and 4) a decision-making component for risk analyses and exploration of alternative management strategies (Chen et al.,  2005).

The population dynamics model includes a series of submodels describing the various processes of the lobster’s life cycle and of the fishery. These submodels describe 1) growth; 2) recruitment; 3) catch at length; 4) fishery selectivity, which includes four components: minimum catch size, fishing gear selectivity, selectivity related to conservation measures (e.g., protection of berried females) and a selectivity parameter that includes various causes; and 5) maturation (i.e., the proportion of mature lobsters based on size or carapace length and described according to a logistical model.

The observational models connect the observed data to the predicted data through the general model for 1) catches per unit effort (CPUE); 2) catch size structures; 3) abundance indices in the survey; and 4) size structures from the survey. Detailed information on the development of the model and on its testing and applications is found in Chen et al., 2005, and Kanaiwa et al., 2008.

The model was adapted for Canadian fisheries and tested for the Magdalen Islands. The data used to describe the lobster population is from previous work carried out on the Magdalen Islands or elsewhere in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence with regard to growth, fecundity, sexual maturity, natural mortality, the length-weight relationship, and gear selectivity. A growth transition matrix was developed to represent growth. The recruitment values used for making projections from the model were taken randomly from a distribution of recruitment values from values estimated by the stock assessment model. Most of the parameters used for this model were found in Gendron and Gagnon (2001a) and used in the past to simulate egg production per recruit in Quebec lobster populations and the impact of various management measures on this production.

An initial set of outcomes was produced using the American model. The outcomes were reviewed and analyzed. Adjustments to the model are currently being made so that it can better represent the nature of certain data.

The next step will be to make 25-year stock biomass projections and to test the effect of various management measures, namely those in the PA decision rules (IFMP). A sensitivity analysis will then be conducted from a basic scenario describing the current situation, to assess the impact of uncertainties in certain parameters of the stock assessment model and on the impacts of management measures.

The indicators used for stock assessments are developed from data primarily from the commercial fishery (fishing statistics, logbooks, and at-sea sampling, both dockside and on board vessels). Electronic logbooks were introduced in Gaspé and on the Magdalen Islands, and 100% coverage was achieved in 2013 in Gaspé and is predicted for 2015 on the Magdalen Islands. Some indicators are based on independent fishery data, i.e., trawl and SCUBA surveys that were conducted on the Magdalen Islands (LFA 22), or trap surveys in the Gaspé, where traps were standard and modified by closing the escape vents. The type and number of data vary by lobster fishing area (LFA) in Quebec. Some sampling programs have been conducted annually since 1985. Data currently used for the Magdalen Islands stock assessment model are taken from the commercial fishery and the trawl survey.

Data collected during commercial fishery monitoring are annually entered into an exhaustive database managed throughout the Quebec Region. There is a project underway to create a database managed throughout the Quebec Region for data from the Magdalen Islands trawl survey. Data from the other surveys are managed separately (DFO biologists and technicians, and the Regroupement des pêcheurs professionnels du sud de la Gaspésie, or RPPSG).

Responsibilities and partnerships

DFO annually supports dockside and at-sea sampling programs and also supports the Magdalen Islands trawl survey.

The SCUBA survey conducted on the Magdalen Islands is funded by DFO through its Fisheries Science Collaborative Program (FSCP). The Association des pêcheurs propriétaires des Îles-de-la-Madeleine (APPIM) is a partner that has been contributing financially to the project since 2003. Data from traps modified during the Gaspé commercial fishery date back to 2006 and were supported by DFO until 2012 through the FSCP (2006 and 2007) and Larocque funds (2008–2012). Since 2013, the industry (RPPSG) has been responsible for conducting it through the DFO program that allows use of a quantity of fish to support financing of scientific research programs (section 10 of the Fisheries Act). DFO Science assists the industry in protocol development and data analysis. The industry (RPPSG) has also been conducting a postseason survey in the Gaspé since 2011. This survey is funded by the DFO Lobster Sustainability Program. DFO Science developed the sampling protocol and provides data analysis assistance.

DFO ensures that science advisory reports and supporting research documents are produced. Documents concerning stock assessment are peer-reviewed and published by the DFO Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS). The most recent advisory reports were published in 2012 (DFO 2012a, b and c). The next review is scheduled for winter 2015.

2.2 Biology and population dynamics

2.2.1 Recruitment dynamics

In most LFAs in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, the lobster fishery is a recruitment fishery. The fishery’s success in a given year depends in large part on the quantity of lobsters that have moulted to commercial size in the previous year. Predicting landings is essential to the industry so that it can plan its investments. Therefore, monitoring abundance indices that can predict fishery recruitment in the short and medium term is an ongoing SRPL activity. Monitoring the abundance of lobsters that are under commercial size by one or two moults allows the landings trend to be predicted in the short term.

On the Magdalen Islands (LFA 22), the trawl survey conducted by DFO since 1995 catches lobsters of a greater range of sizes than regular traps. The fact that the trawl survey takes place in the fall, after the moulting period, gives a good indication of the commercial portion of the population that will be available to the fishery the following spring, and therefore makes it possible to make a prediction in the year preceding the fishing season. It is also possible to track the abundance of smaller lobster that will recruit to the fishery one or two years later, thereby allowing predictions to be made a bit farther in advance. Juvenile lobsters can also be caught in the trawl survey (< 55 mm CL). These lobsters (aged about three to four years) are starting their vagile phase and emerging from nurseries. They will reach commercial size about five to six years later. They provide an indication of recruitment to come in the medium term. The relationship between fishery recruitment indices and landings was explored by Gendron and Savard (2012) and is considered every time the stock is assessed.

For the Gaspé (LFA 19 and 20), the recruitment indicators are from traps modified to hold small lobsters (escape vents closed). The postseason survey conducted in the fall gives an idea of the population that will be available to the fishery the following year. The current objective is to continue the program, which began in 2011, to extend the data set and to establish connections between abundance indices and landings. Data that are from modified traps, and collected during the fishing season, also provide an indication of recruitment to the upcoming fishery in the short term (one year) (Bruneau and Gendron 2012). The project began in 2007, and the set is now long enough to see trends and direct relationships between abundance indices and landings (Gendron and Savard 2012). This type of data collection is now up to the industry and, more specifically, the RPPSG.

Lobster benthic settlement has been monitored on an annual basis since 1997 on the Magdalen Islands in Placentia Bay (Les Demoiselles area) (Gendron and Savard 2012). The work is carried out in a lobster nursery, a place where benthic settlement occurs and which also acts as a habitat for the first three years of benthic life. The monitoring work consists of evaluating lobster abundance in the nursery and is carried out through underwater diving and hand harvesting. Workers then analyze the demographic structure of the lobster population in the nursery (see Gendron and Sainte-Marie 2006), which allows them to determine the moult classes and cohorts and to evaluate the parameters of the population dynamics (inter-annual variability in cohort strength, growth and survival of the initial benthic stages). Monitoring the lobster population during this phase of its life cycle aims to 1) establish a link between cohort strength (abundance of lobsters aged 0+ and 1+) and the conservation measures put forward to increase egg and larvae production; 2) understand the role of local hydrodynamic factors (mainly the speed and direction of winds during the larval phase) in determining lobster cohort strength; and 3) predict long-term (8–9 years) recruitment to the fishery. Through this monitoring work, we hope to gain a better understanding of the processes that influence lobster abundance during benthic settlement, which will eventually allow us to predict recruitment to the commercial fishery.

The data gathered so far have highlighted key elements of the dynamics of lobster recruitment, namely the species’ growth trajectory in the first three years of benthic life. The data set also revealed that increasing egg production (by increasing minimum catch size) has a positive effect on the number of lobsters that settle on the bottom. The data are currently being analyzed to establish the relationship between cohort strength at the time of benthic loading and wind conditions (strength and direction) during the larval stage. Moreover, it is becoming possible to relate strong signals observed at the time of benthic loading (e.g., the abundant 2002 cohort) to recruitment to the fishery (e.g., the high number of landings in 2010).

This work has been carried out annually since 1997 (except for 2002). It was funded by DFO until 2001 and, since 2003, it has been funded by the Fisheries Science Collaborative Program (FSCP) and by the industry (APPIM), which is a partner in the FSCP. The value and usefulness of this type of project increases with the length of the data set. This is why the project is ongoing.

Since 2012, the underwater diving technique for sampling has been compared with a simpler monitoring technique that consists of installing collectors (boxes filled with cobble) in the nursery in the summer and then recovering them in the fall, after benthic settlement, and counting the lobsters in the collectors. Comparisons will be done for at least one more year (2014). Depending on the results, this technique might replace underwater diving in the future. This component of the project is funded by the FSCP and by Merinov.

2.2.2 Reproductive biology

Several aspects of reproductive biology are studied on an ongoing basis as part of the lobster assessment mission on the Magdalen Islands, carried out by trawling. The degree of embryonic development of lobster eggs is studied each year for all berried females caught, to determine the interannual variability in the reproductive phenology of lobsters. This allows us to better understand the recruitment dynamic. Also, recently moulted females ≥ 80 mm are examined to determine whether they have a sperm plug in the entrance of the seminal receptacle. The presence of a sperm plug indicates that the female has mated and that there is sperm in the seminal receptacle. The purpose of this type of observation is to detect any anomalies in mating success that could be consistent with excessive fishing pressure on males and a sex ratio imbalance.

2.2.3 Population health - Lobster condition indices

Over the past few years, we have observed an increase in the abundance of lobster on the Magdalen Islands (Gendron and Savard 2012). At the same time, we have also observed a decrease in the abundance of rock crab (Gendron and Savard 2013a). Rock crab is an important prey species for lobster. We have already documented through experiments that a reduction in rock crab in the diet of lobsters can impact lobster growth and gonad development (Gendron et al., 2001b). The changes observed in the environment (increase in lobster and decrease in rock crab) have the potential to create a situation wherein food resources, specifically rock crab, could become a limiting factor in lobster productivity. Based on the works of Gendron et al. (2001b), we postulate that such a limitation could be detected by monitoring certain lobster condition indices.

Since 1995, lobster samples have been collected during commercial fishing in the Gaspé and on the Magdalen Islands, as well as during the Magdalen Islands trawl survey, in order to evaluate the condition of the lobster. The condition is based on the moisture content of the hepatopancreas, which is an indication of lipid and glycogen stores, on the dry weight of the crusher claw muscle, and on the protein content in the haemolymph. This project is ongoing and data are collected each year. An update of all the data is planned for next year.

2.3 Population connectivity

The NSERC Canadian Fisheries Research Network's lobster group is conducting a research program that includes two main components. The first aims to study the genetic and demographic connectivity between the populations of Eastern Canada, and the second studies the dynamics of pelagic-benthic transition, which will allow us to better evaluate the potential for connectivity between remote areas.

2.3.1 Demographic and genetic connectivity

The connectivity component consists specifically of mapping the distribution and the fecundity of females, and of the phenology of larval production in relation to geography (including areas with different thermal regimes). This component also includes larval development and spatial drift, according to a biophysical model using the temperature fields and currents observed, displacement of the benthic phase (at two pilot sites, namely northeastern New Brunswick and the Bay of Fundy) and genetic discrimination between populations.

The pelagic-benthic transition component was only carried out in the lab, and aims to deepen our knowledge of the effects of temperature, sediment and predators on the settlement and subsequent survival of postlarvae on the bottom. Both components are relevant to the industry and to lobster management in Quebec, and DFO scientists in the Quebec Region therefore actively participated in carrying out experiments at the MLI and in field sampling, in partnership with the industry, mainly on the Magdalen Islands, in the Gaspé area, in Chaleur Bay and on Anticosti Island.

The fieldwork conducted in Quebec for the connectivity component will allow us to quantify the larval release periods over the past three summers (analysis in progress). The preliminary results of modelling of larval lobster drift in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and on the Scotian Shelf by Quinn, Chassé and Rochette, indicate a connectivity as a result of larval drift that was more or less limited by region. An analysis by Benestan, Rochette and Bernatchez, based on more than 6000 genetic markers, strongly suggests that the populations of the Magdalen Islands, the Gaspé and Anticosti Island differ from each other and from populations in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence analyzed so far (Caraquet and Prince Edward Island). A strategic funding application was submitted in March 2014 to NSERC to confirm these results and to increase the spatial coverage and the sampling density of lobster populations in Eastern Canada in order to determine the spatial scales relevant to stock management and the mechanisms of population isolation in the context of existing larval drift.

The larval drift model will be refined over the next two years to include larvae release dates, variable rates of larval development based on temperature and larval swimming and diel migration behaviours. Biophysical modelling of larval drift and works on population genomics will be combined in this second phase. Finally, a project will be initiated in summer 2014 to study the causes of systematic incidence (each year) of abnormally small ranges in certain geographic locations, the hypotheses tested being limited sperm or adverse environmental conditions.

2.3.2 Pelagic-benthic transition

After emergence, lobster larvae inhabit the surface water. Marine currents therefore have a significant impact on the dispersal and transport of young larvae. A larva that emerges in one location may end up in a different location by the end of its development. The dynamics of larval exchange between production sites is an important factor in connectivity between populations (or production sites). Research projects ending in 2015–16 have studied aspects of larval biology that may influence connectivity potential between populations. In the Gulf of St. Lawrence, lobster is present from the south, where the surface water may be very high in the summer (e.g., the Northumberland Strait), to the north, where the surface water remains relatively cold (e.g., northeastern Gulf, Quebec North Shore). The Magdalen Islands are located at the centre of the plateau that forms the southern Gulf, in an area where the surface water may be relatively high in summer, when lobster larvae develop. Experiments have been carried out to determine whether lobster larvae from different areas (cold and hot) of the Gulf had the same resistance to extreme temperatures during their development. In other words, will a larva from a population adapted to a generally cold temperature regime be affected if transported to much warmer waters, and vice versa? Experiments were also carried out to determine whether the larvae's origin and temperature regime during development would affect the behaviour of postlarvae during benthic settlement, according to the temperature of the water column and the bottom. The results of these experiments will allow us to better evaluate the connectivity potential between lobster populations that are adjacent, and those that are farther apart in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Research in support of the industry and communities

Research in support of the industry is not consistent and depends on the concerns expressed by the industry, as well as on available funding. In recent years, DFO has provided the industry with relevant information to help with consistency in establishing its environmental response projects (artificial reefs and seeding) (Gendron et al., 2013b, 2013c, 2014). 

DFO is involved in a project that aims to characterize the lobster population in the Sept-Îles area on the North Shore with the Agence Mamu Innu Kaikusseht (AMIK). DFO has developed sampling and data analysis protocols. This project is currently underway and will continue over the course of the coming year(s).

DFO is not the only organization to offer research support to the industry. The provincial government, through the Québec Fisheries and Aquaculture Innovation Centre (Merinov), and universities, particularly the Université du Québec à Rimouski (UQAR) and its Marine Sciences Institute (ISMER), among others, are particularly active in this respect (e.g., bait development, postlarvae collectors, larvae seed quality) and sometimes carry out research projects in cooperation with DFO.

2.5 Ecosystem considerations

2.5.1 Lobster fishery bycatch

DFO Science will be involved as of this year, through the electronic logbook program, in annual bycatch monitoring for the lobster fishery. Electronic logbooks were developed so that fishers could report the quantity of bycatch (by species) on a daily basis, and then indicate, in the case of rock crab, the quantities retained. The data will be reviewed as part of stock assessment surveys, and will be included in the advisories and research documents produced.

2.5.2 Impact of aquaculture on resources, especially lobster (Chris McKindsey's group, DBSB)

The Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec (MAPAQ) is working to establish an aquaculture development zone in Placentia Bay, off the Magdalen Islands, in Quebec. To this end, an exploratory study was carried out by MAPAQ, in collaboration with Merinov, ISMER and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), to identify scientific needs and to ensure the sustainable development of the zone.

This process identified four main issues. 1) There is some concern that bivalve aquaculture in the proposed zone could cause intensive grazing of available plankton populations and lead to support capacity problems, in terms of production; 2) Organic loading on the bottom could have an unacceptable impact on this part of the ecosystem, leading to support capacity problems, in terms of ecology; 3) Interactions with neighbouring aquaculture sites and commercially important species are largely unknown. Even though initial studies carried out in more protected environments suggest that aquaculture sites can increase populations of species fished, the local fishers, as well as other stakeholders, are concerned about the possibility that an aquaculture industry could have negative effects on resources; and 4) MAPAQ and Merinov hope to establish a monitoring program to ensure the sustainability of these aquaculture sites, in case eco‑certification becomes a requirement for aquaculture products.

A research project, funded in part by the ACRDP, began in 2013 and will continue until 2016, in order to examine these points. It has four goals: 1) to determine the site's support capacity for bivalve aquaculture; 2) to determine the benthic environment's ecological support capacity; 3) to evaluate the use of geochemical measures to carry out site monitoring; and 4) to determine the effects of raising bivalves on the abundance, condition (size and growth) and the movement of three commercially important species, namely lobster, rock crab and winter flounder. Observations and manipulative experiments will be used to accomplish this. It is expected that the three species will benefit from these bivalve aquaculture sites, given that they will create shelter, and that the organic loading associated with these sites will be low.

2.5.3 Adapting to climate change – Tool to help decide the opening date for the Magdalen Islands lobster fishery, based on environmental factors (Peter Galbraith, Ocean Science Branch, DFO-MLI)

Lobsters begin to move in springtime, once the water temperature reaches approximately 1.5 °C. This is the ideal time to open the lobster fishery. Lobster catchability is high then and fishery yields are profitable for the industry. From a climate change perspective, there is a risk that water will reach this temperature earlier in the future. Preliminary analyses of thermograph data sampled from the south coast of the Magdalen Islands show that the date on which the 1.5 °C threshold is reached varies each year, by as much as five weeks. The project aims first and foremost to study this variability over past years in order to understand the key factors that are responsible. Then, the project aims to develop a simple tool for predicting water temperature to forecast when the lobster catchability threshold will be reached. This tool could be based on air temperature, ice conditions, and water surface temperature obtained by remote sensing. The project also aims to evaluate whether in situ data could be used to predict and determine the timeframe when they can be used that same year. The tool could eventually be used as an operational tool to study the effects of various climate change scenarios on environmental factors and, consequently, on the date the temperature threshold is reached.

Predicting this temperature threshold for various lobster fishing areas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, in a global warming context, will help fisheries managers adapt to the changes that will need to be made to fishery opening dates and will help managers at the Small Craft Harbours Branch better understand pressure from clients to open various fishing harbours early.

2.5.4 Invasive species

Invasive species may have negative impacts on indigenous species and on ecosystems as a whole. The green crab (Carcinus maenas) is a small coastal crab native to Europe and Northern Africa. This invasive crab was first observed in 2004 on the Magdalen Islands and has since been found in all of the archipelago's bodies of water. It was also observed in Chaleur Bay in 2011 and 2012, but its establishment there has not yet been confirmed. This invasive species' potential impacts on juvenile lobsters is a concern with regard to preserving the lobster fishing industry.

Since 2011–2012, DFO has been studying the green crab's diet on the Magdalen Islands in order to evaluate this invasive crab's potential impact on lobsters. In addition, since the green crab was discovered on the Islands, population control efforts have been carried out in cooperation with Merinov and Magdalen Islands eel fishers. DFO also participated with Merinov in trials using green crab as a potential bait for commercial trap fishing. These trials were carried out in 2012–2013 and 2013–2014.

Conclusion

The SRPL is a plan that has become part of DFO's vision and mission.

It upholds the Department's mandate and takes into consideration contextual issues like eco‑certification.

The plan developed here will be regularly reviewed and updated, particularly through peer-reviewed lobster stock assessments.

The SRPL will also be adjusted as needed to take into account the new Strategic Science Plan, which is planned for 2014–2015.

The SRPL will be used to prepare annual work plans and allocate resources.

References

SRPL activities 2013–2017
  2013–2014 2014–2015 2015–2016 2016–2017

1. Stock assessment

       
  • Indicator trends
  • Precautionary Approach
  • Stock assessment model

2. Biology and population dynamics

       
  • Dynamics of recruitment
    • to the fishery
    • (benthic)








  • Reproductive biology
  • Population health (condition indices)

3. Population connectivity

       
  • Demographic and genetic
? ?
  • Pelagic-benthic transition
   

4. Research in support of the industry and communities

       
  • Follow-up on seeding
     
  • Artificial reefs
     
  • Sept-Îles lobster
   
  • Others (undetermined as of yet)
    ? ?

5. Ecosystem considerations

       
  • Bycatch
  • Impacts of aquaculture
 
  • Adaptation to climate change
   
  • Invasive species
   

Appendix 6 : Major changes to management measures since 1992

Major changes to management measures since 1992
Year Minimum size Other conservation measures
1992 76 mm Cutting a v-shaped notch in females on a voluntary basis.
1994 76 mm Mandatory release of v-notched females.
    Introduction of escape vents and gaps with rot cords.
1995 76 mm 216 licences (LFAs 20–21).
1997 78 mm  
2002 81 mm Increase in size of the vertical opening in trap escape vents from 43 mm to 46 mm.
2003 82 mm

(LFAs 20 and 21);

83 mm (LFA 19)
Introduction of a single hauling of traps per day.
2004–2006   Buy-back of 7 licences.
2006   Decrease in the number of traps per licence from 250 to 235.

Season shorted from 70 to 68 days in areas 20 and 21.
2007   Buy-back of 9 licences.
2008   Buy-back of 8 licences.
2009   Maximum size reduced to 150 mm CL (LFA 20). Introduction of a maximum size of 155 mm CL (LFA 20).
2010   Buy-back of 11 licences.
2011   Buy-back of 8 licences.

Introduction of a maximum of 12 fathoms between traps and a minimum of six traps per line.
2012   Standardization of traps in areas 20 and 21.

Maximum size reduction to 145 mm CL (LFA 20).

Electronic logbook mandatory.

Precautionary approach developed in collaboration with the industry and integrated into the fishery management.
2013   Buy-back of 11 licences.
2014 to 2016   Buy-back of 1 licence.
2016   Introduction of a maximum size of 155 mm CL (LFAs 19 and 21).
2018   Decrease in the maximum catch size to 150 mm in areas 19 and 21.

Increase in the minimum catch size to 82,55 mm in areas 20 and 21.