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Rock crab (Cancer irroratus) Newfoundland and Labrador Region


Image of capelin
Rock crab
(Cancer irroratus)

The purpose of this Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP) is to identify the main objectives and requirements for the Newfoundland and Labrador Region Rock crab fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as the management measures that will be used to achieve these objectives. This document also serves to communicate basic information on the fishery and its management to Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) staff, legislated co-management boards and committees, and other stakeholders. This IFMP provides a common understanding of the basic “rules” for the sustainable management of the fisheries resource.

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

As with any policy, the Minister retains the discretion to make exceptions to, or to change, this policy at any time. It is; however, DFO’s expectation and intention to follow the management process set out in this IFMP with a view to contributing to increased certainty and direction for the Rock crab fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador.

This IFMP will be in effect until it is replaced. While the elements of this plan will remain in effect, quotas, for example, are subject to annual review and may be adjusted based on updated science information. This could include changes to the harvesting cap as well as adjustments to annexes and website listings.

Tony Blanchard
Regional Director General
Newfoundland and Labrador Region

1.0 Overview of the fishery

1.1 History of the fishery

In the late 1990’s Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) solicited applications from core fish harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador wishing to participate in a resource assessment of Rock crab under the DFO’s Emerging Fisheries Policy. An exploratory fishery and resource survey were conducted over a five year period to gather sufficient data to evaluate the potential of a commercial fishery.

In 2007, DFO approved the transition of the fishery from emerging to commercial status. The harvesting cap was set to 25,000 pounds for each of the 30 licence holders.

In 2017, DFO approved an increase in the harvesting cap and licence holders are now authorized to harvest 35,000 pounds annually.

1.2 Type of fishery

The Rock crab fishery is mainly a commercial fishery. Access is also available for scientific and/or educational purposes. A recreational Rock crab fishery is not authorized in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) Region nor is there an Indigenous Food, Social and Ceremonial (FSC) fishery.

1.3 Participants

There are presently 31 commercial Rock crab licences and only those fish harvesters who held a licence in the previous year will be eligible for renewal of that licence in the current year.

An advisory meeting was held in July 2017 and harvesters in attendance supported the issuance of new licences, particularly in areas with limited or no licences. Fishing activity in recent years has declined and DFO does not support issuing new licences at this time.

Table 1: Number of licences listed by NAFO division and CMA
2019 Rock crab licences
NAFO division CMA Licences
3K 3A 2
3B 1
3D 11
3L 5A 7
4R 12C 1
12D 6
13 3
Total licences 31

1.4 Location of the fishery

The Rock crab fishery takes place in 7 CMAs, 3A, 3B, 3D, 5A, 12C, 12D and 13. The fishery is concentrated inshore in water depths between 1 and 7 fathoms.

Map of crab Management Areas in NL Region
Figure 1: Crab Management Areas in NL Region

1.5 Fishery characteristics

The Rock crab fishing season is normally between June 1 and October 31 and is managed by a harvest cap of 35,000 pounds per individual licence holder with retention limited to male Rock crab.

Rock crab harvesters use a maximum of 150 conical, baited traps with a minimum legal mesh size of 38 mm. The regulated minimum legal mesh size of traps allows small crab, both female and undersize males, to escape. Any under-sized crab that are in the traps are returned to the sea by the harvester.

Rock crab is managed by prohibiting the capture of all females and males below 102mm carapace width. Primarily, this is achieved by regulating the size of the mesh in crab traps. This management strategy aims to ensure that the total harvest will have a low impact on the reproductive potential of the Rock crab resource in which females, undersize males, and unharvested legal-sized males are sufficient to maintain Rock crab reproduction.

1.6 Governance

The Newfoundland and Labrador Rock crab fishery is governed by the Fisheries Act, regulations made pursuant to the Act, and departmental policies. The key regulations and policies that apply include, but are not limited to:

The Fisheries Licencing Policy of Newfoundland and Labrador Region provides details on the various licensing policies that govern the commercial fishing industry in the Newfoundland and Labrador Region. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) should be consulted for all purposes of interpreting and applying this document.

1.7 Approval process

This IFMP for Rock crab is approved by the Regional Director General, Newfoundland and Labrador. Unless there are conservation issues, the intent is to manage the fishery based on the measures outlined in this document.

Issues that arise will be addressed through consultative processes. Changes to management measures may also be tabled by DFO officials at the advisory meeting. Stakeholders seeking new management measures are required to table their requests at scheduled advisory meetings for consideration.

2.0 Stock assessment, science and traditional knowledge

2.1 Biological characteristics

Rock crab (Cancer irroratus) are distributed throughout the Northwest Atlantic from Southern Labrador to Florida. In NL waters, they are most commonly found in inshore waters along all coastlines. Rock crab carapaces are wider than long, arched with teeth-like intrusions along the anterior edges. Rock crab exhibit considerable colour variation, with dorsal surfaces ranging from purplish red to yellowish orange. Males grow to larger sizes than females, with maximum sizes of males about 130 mm carapace width (CW) in males and 95 mm CW in females. Despite being commonly distributed throughout the Province, little is known on basic biology attributes or behaviours of Rock crab in NL. In adjacent waters of the Maritime Provinces, size at first maturity has been observed at about 55 mm CW and 70 mm CW in females and males respectively. There is no known information on growth or mortality rates in NL Rock crab nor inter- or intra-specific competition or habitat impacts or interactions within the marine ecosystem.

2.2 Aboriginal traditional knowledge

Aboriginal traditional knowledge and traditional ecological knowledge in the form of observations and comments from Indigenous groups are considered in science processes and management decisions when provided.

2.3 Stock assessment process

The Rock crab resource in Newfoundland and Labrador has never been assessed through a science peer-review process.

2.4 Precautionary approach

The Precautionary Approach (PA) in fisheries management is about being cautious when scientific knowledge is uncertain and not using the absence of adequate scientific information as a reason to postpone or fail to take action to avoid serious harm to fish stocks or their ecosystems. This approach is widely accepted as an essential part of sustainable fisheries management. Applying the Precautionary Approach to fisheries management decisions entails establishing a harvest strategy that:

Currently there is no Precautionary Approach Framework for Rock crab, however due to the absence of a stock assessment, the department is exercising caution by limiting the number of licences available and implementing harvest caps.

2.5 Research

A primary goal of the DFO Science branch is to provide high quality knowledge, products, and scientific advice on Canadian aquatic ecosystems and living resources with a vision of safe, healthy, productive waters and aquatic ecosystems. DFO conducts research activities both independently and in collaboration with other organizations.

Currently, limited research is obtained in the multi-species survey.

3.0 Economic, social and cultural importance of the fishery

3.1 Socio-economic profile

Over the 2007 to 2019 time period, Rock crab landings in the NL region averaged approximately 80 tonnes per year. Landings ranged from a high of 122 tonnes to a low of 28 tonnes. There were no landings in 2020. Annual landings and landed value cannot be provided in accordance with privacy guidelines.

Rock crab landed value averaged about $70,000 per year during the 2007 to 2019 time period and ranged from a low of around $30,000 to a high of about $95,000. Rock crab landed value fluctuated over the time period, with a substantial decline in 2019 due to lower landings and a slight decline in landed price.

The price per pound increased steadily over the past decade with the first significant decline in 2019 ($0.50), falling from $0.54 in 2018. The average price per pound over the period is about $0.40 and has ranged from $0.32 to $0.54.

see text above
Figure 2: Rock crab average landed price per pound NL region 2007 to 2019

Figure 2: Rock crab average landed price per pound NL region 2007 to 2019

Year Sum of Landed RW Sum of Landed Value $/lb
2007 120886.32 86173          0.32
2008 84026.57 64835.75          0.35
2009 78147.5 59205.71          0.34
2010 99269.26 76313.35          0.35
2011 122109.24 91400.05          0.34
2012 73100.31 56232.93          0.35
2013 63564.81 49047.25          0.35
2014 71708.7 63235.6          0.40
2015 73366.15 64697.2          0.40
2016 56725.94 50023.2          0.40
2017 70290.76 77481.5          0.50
2018 81479.64 96142          0.54
2019 28411.5 31318          0.50
Grand total 1023086.7 866105.54          0.38

Rock crab is harvested by vessels <40’ with homeports in NAFO divisions 2J, 3K, 3L, 3Ps and 4R. The vast majority of landings in the most recent 10-year time period have been in divisions 3K and 3L with a smaller portion from 4R.

3.2 Dependence on Rock crab

In 2019, 6 fishing enterprises with homeports in NAFO divisions 3K and 3L had Rock crab landings. There were no landings reported for this species in any other NAFO divisions in the Newfoundland and Labrador Region. On average, these enterprises depended on Rock crab for about 6 percent of their total landed value (all species). Snow crab was the predominant species for these enterprises, accounting for about 58 percent of total fishing revenue. The remainder was comprised of cod (14 percent), other shellfish (11 percent) and other pelagics (11 percent).

4.0 Management issues

4.1 Science uncertainity

There is limited science information on Rock crab in NL related to sustainable exploitation rates, mortality, and the impact of fishery on benthic ecosystems.

4.2 Habitat Considerations

Based on current knowledge, no significant concerns exist as Rock crab habitat is not being significantly affected by human activities, such as industrial activities, or by commercial fishing in areas around Newfoundland and Labrador.  The DFO Fish and Fish Habitat Protection Program will continue to review proposals for developments and development projects that could affect Rock crab habitat, or other species, so as to avoid, mitigate, and if necessary, consider authorizations and offsetting for possible impacts from projects.

4.3 Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS)

Nil impacts.

4.4 International issues

The United States (U.S.) is implementing the import provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act following court direction. The import rule requires countries exporting fish and fish products to the US to demonstrate that they have regulatory measures in place that are comparable in effectiveness to those of the US for reducing marine mammal incidental mortality and serious injury in commercial fisheries. Countries who fail to obtain such comparability measures to the U.S. for their export fisheries by January 1, 2023 will be prohibited from entering the U.S. market. Canada must make final application by November 31, 2021 demonstrating appropriate measures are in place in all Canadian fisheries.

4.5 Initiatives in marine conservation

As of August 2021, the Government of Canada has formally protected 13.81% of Canada’s marine and coastal areas. The Government of Canada has further committed domestically to protecting 25% by 2025, and working towards 30% by 2030.

To meet marine conservation targets, Canada is establishing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and “other effective area-based conservation measures” (OECMs), in consultation with industry, non-governmental organizations, and other interested parties. An overview of these tools, including a description of the role of fisheries management measures that qualify as Other Measures is available on the DFO website.

There are currently no formal marine conservation areas established which have specific conservation objectives directly relevant to Rock crab. However, prohibitions on commercial fishing activities in the MPAs and bottom contact gear in OECMs would have conservation and protection benefits to the species. Most of the marine conservation areas established to date around NL, in which all bottom fishing activities are prohibited, are in offshore areas where Rock crab fishing does not occur. Inshore, there is the Eastport Marine Protected Area in which commercial fishing, including Rock crab, is prohibited. Information on these marine conservation measures can be found on the DFO website. Other protected areas may be established in the future.

5.0 Objectives

DFO strives to manage the Rock crab fishery based on the principles of stock conservation and sustainable harvest, ecosystem health and sustainability, and stewardship. Using the following short- and long-term objectives as guideposts, various management measures have been implemented, or are being developed, that will maximize the benefit of this resource.

5.1 Conservation and sustainable harvest

Conservation and the long-term sustainability of the Rock crab stock is an important objective for DFO. The department seeks to provide benefits for all stakeholders in the short and long term. DFO will work with all stakeholders to ensure this objective is achieved and that the Rock crab stock supports an economically viable and self-reliant fishery. Specifically,

5.2 Ecosystem health and sustainability

Ecosystem health is essential for effective fisheries management. The sustainability of Rock crab as a species within the food web, as both a prey species and a predator, will strengthen the long-term health of the ecosystem. In some fishing areas in Canada, for example the Gulf and Quebec Regions, there are concerns regarding Rock crab fishing and the sustainability of lobster populations. Rock crab is a key element in the lobster food regime.

Ongoing ecosystem-based research and science advice helps to inform the sustainable management of the Rock crab fishery.

6.0 Access and allocation

At this time, access is considered to be limited and allocations are considered to be stable. However, the Minister can, for reasons of conservation or for any other valid reasons, modify access, allocations and sharing arrangements as outlined in this IFMP in accordance with the powers granted pursuant to the Fisheries Act.

There are currently 30 commercial licences issued for Rock crab. Participation is restricted to existing Rock crab licence holders.

6.1 Quotas and allocations

The Rock crab fishery is made up of 7 crab management areas. Each licenced harvester is authorized to harvest a quota of 35,000 pounds. See Appendix 2 for historical landings.

6.2 Communal commercial fisheries

Indigenous fishing policy in Canada is guided by a vision of supporting healthy and prosperous Indigenous communities through: building and supporting strong, stable relationships; working in a way that upholds the honour of the Crown; and facilitating Indigenous participation in fisheries and aquaculture and associated economic opportunities.

As per the Principles respecting the Government of Canada's relationship with Indigenous peoples, the Government of Canada is committed to achieving reconciliation with Indigenous peoples through a renewed, nation-to-nation, government-to-government, and Inuit-Crown relationship based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership as the foundation for transformative change.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada supports the participation of adjacent Indigenous organizations in commercial fisheries. The Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy Program (AFS) is designed to encourage Indigenous involvement in commercial fisheries and related economic opportunities.

A subsequent program, Aboriginal Aquatic Resource and Oceans Management (AAROM) Program, was designed for Indigenous groups to collaboratively develop capacity and expertise to facilitate their participation in aquatic resource and oceans management.

All communal commercial licences issued to Indigenous organizations are done so under the authority of the Aboriginal Communal Fishing Licenses Regulations.

Currently, there are no Communal Commercial licences issued for Rock crab.

6.3 Licencing

The Rock crab fishery is a limited-entry fishery. Only fish harvesters who held a licence in the previous year will be eligible for renewal of that licence in the current year. However, an eligible fish harvester can acquire a Rock crab licence by receiving one through reissuance from an existing licence holder.

The recipient of a Rock crab licence must be a resident of, or have a homeport in, the NAFO Division of the licence. Reissuance of a licence is permitted between:

7.0 Management measures for the duration of the plan

7.1 Harvest cap

A harvesting cap is a maximum quantity of Rock crab that each licence holder can harvest annually. The maximum amount of Rock crab authorized to be harvested in 2022, per licence holder, is 35,000 pounds round weight.

7.2 Minimum size

The minimum retention size of Rock crab is 102 mm from side to side at the widest point of the carapace.

7.3 Fishing seasons

The Rock crab fishing season is normally June 1 to October 31; however, the department may adjust season dates based on recommendations from industry.

7.4 Fishing area

Fishing for Rock crab is authorized in Crab Management Areas (CMA) within NAFO Divisions  3KL and 4R. Licence holders are authorized to fish within one CMA that is associated with their homeport.

Table 2: NAFO Division and associated CMAs
NAFO division CMA Total harvesters
3K 3A, 3B, 3D 14
3L 5A 7
4R 12C, 12D, 13 10
Total   31

7.5 Fishing gear

7.6 At sea-observer program

The At–Sea Observer Program was designed to collect independent fisheries data for science, resource management and compliance for deterrence purposes. This important component of fishery management provides information and an at-sea presence while fisheries are active. At-Sea Observers (ASO) observe, record and report detailed biological and fishery data, such as fishing effort and all catch data, fishing gear type, and fishing location.

The fishing industry are responsible for the payment of fees to cover at-sea observer coverage. Fishers are required to carry at-sea observers at the request of DFO. Licence conditions are not valid unless a letter of arrangement from the observer company is attached confirming payment of observer fees. All harvesters will contribute to the overall observer coverage for the Rock crab fishery. The ASO requirement is required as a condition of licence.

7.7 Logbooks

Completing a logbook is mandatory under Section 61 of the Fisheries Act. Fish harvesters are required to record information about fishing catch and effort and submit this data as specified in the conditions of licence. Logbooks can be obtained from an approved logbook supplier. Information documented in a logbook includes location, date, time, sets, gear type, weight of fish caught, and by-catch. In 2018, marine mammal mitigation measures became mandatory and all interactions must be reported. As well, information must be included on anything else the harvester thinks may be useful to DFO. Failure to submit a logbook may result in enforcement action.

7.8 Dockside monitoring program

The objective of the Dockside Monitoring Program (DMP) is to provide accurate, timely, and independent third party verification of landings. DMP constitutes one of the primary sources of landing information on which the management of the fishery is based. The fishing industry and the department are, therefore, dependent on the accurate verification of landings by Dockside Monitoring Corporations (DMCs). All DMP costs are the responsibility of individual fish harvesters or fishing fleets. It is also the responsibility of license holders to ensure that monitors who oversee the offloading of catches are certified by DFO. The dockside monitoring requirement is managed as a condition of licence.

Currently, the Rock crab fishery does not have a DMP requirement.

7.9 Species at Risk Act (SARA) requirements

In accordance with the recovery strategies for the Northern Wolffish (Anarchichas denticulatus), Spotted Wolffish (Anarchichas minor), and Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), the licence holder is permitted to carry out commercial fishing activities authorized under the Fisheries Act that may incidentally kill, harm, harass, capture or take the Northern Wolffish and/or Spotted Wolffish as per subsection 83(4) of the Species at Risk Act, and the license holder is permitted to carry out commercial fishing activities authorized under the Fisheries Act that are known to incidentally capture Leatherback Sea Turtles.

Licence holders are required to return Northern Wolffish, Spotted Wolffish or Leatherback Sea Turtle to the place from which it was taken, and where it is alive, in a manner that causes the least harm.

Licence holders are required to report in their logbooks any interaction with Northern Wolffish, Spotted Wolffish or Leatherback Sea Turtles.

8.0 Shared stewardship arrangements

There are no formal shared stewardship arrangements in the Rock crab fishery. However, as noted throughout the IFMP, DFO officials work closely with the harvesting and processing sectors in all aspects of fisheries management, science, and conservation and protection.

9.0 Compliance plan

9.1 Current compliance issues

Compliance issues in this fishery include:

9.2 Program description

The deployment of Conservation and Protection (C&P) resources in the fishery is conducted in accordance with management plan objectives, as well as in response to emerging issues. The mix of enforcement options available and over-riding conservation objectives determine the level and type of enforcement activity. 

Work plans at the regional, area, and detachment levels are designed to establish priorities based on management objectives and conservation concerns. The monitoring and evaluation elements of enforcement work plans facilitate in-season adjustments should conservation concerns and/or significant occurrences of non-compliance emerge.

9.3 Compliance performance

The 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. Specifically through the following Pillars:

Pillar 1: Education and shared stewardship

C&P officers actively participate in consultation processes with the fishing industry and Indigenous groups to address compliance issues. Informal meetings with stakeholders also occur on an ad-hoc basis to resolve in-season matters, in addition to regular interaction with fish harvesters. The consultative process may include C&P membership on local fisheries management planning committees, which are comprised of fish harvesters, representatives from the provincial and federal governments, and other community groups with an interest in fishery conservation issues.

Fishery officers also visit local schools and educational institutions to present and discuss fisheries conservation issues and use this information as part of the C&P planning process.

Pillar 2: Monitoring, control, and surveillance

C&P promotes compliance with management measures governing the fishery through:

Patrols by vehicle, vessel and fixed-wing aircraft are conducted in accordance with operational plans which are developed based on available intelligence.

Each C&P detachment ensures that monitoring and inspections of fish landing activity are carried out on a routine basis. Where a vessel is selected for comprehensive inspection, C&P ensures that catch composition, weight verification, and size variation sampling is conducted. C&P also ensures that surveillance flights are conducted on a routine basis.

The VMS system provides real-time data on the location of vessels within portions of this fleet. C&P uses this resource to help determine where the enterprise is fishing, the port of destination and the estimated time of arrival to port. VMS data will also be relied upon for future analysis and comparisons of fishing activity.  

At-sea observers are randomly deployed to observe, record, and report aspects of the fishing activity. The resulting data is used to compare catch composition of vessels on observed trips vs. non-observed trips. When it is applicable to the fishery, C&P also reviews quota monitoring reports to ensure individual quotas are not exceeded.

C&P supplies best-known available local information to the National Fisheries Intelligence service for processing and uses this intelligence to combat all types of illegal fishing activity.

C&P conducts post-season analysis sessions to review issues encountered during the previous season and to make recommendations on improving management measures. The initial sessions are conducted at the area level, followed by a regional session with other DFO sectors.

Pillar 3: Major case

C&P recognizes the need to focus attention on high-risk illegal activities that pose significant threat to the achievement of conservation objectives, which usually cannot be addressed through education or routine monitoring. Some individuals, usually motivated by financial gain, persist through various complex and well-coordinated means in hiding illegal activities which put Canada’s aquatic resources at risk.

C&P will focus on high-risk illegal activities that pose significant conservation threats. Detailed analysis of licence holders and possibly companies will be completed using:

Targeting of high risk violators, and/or processing facilities, will also be a primary focus should intelligence gathered warrant such action. Any resulting operations will be conducted in conjunction with NFIS staff, additional field staff and area resources as required.

9.4 Compliance strategy

C&P has developed an operational plan that outlines monitoring and compliance activities that will be carried out by C&P personnel in all management areas. The plan provides guidance for C&P, promotes effective monitoring of the fishery, and enables C&P personnel to effectively maintain compliance with management measures governing this fishery. The objective of the plan is to collect information for ensuring compliance and conducting investigations.

Sources of information used by C&P to fulfil this objective include:

10.0 Performance review

A review of the objectives during the planning cycle is an integral part of assessing the performance of the fishery. For fisheries management, the advisory meeting with industry is a formal setting to review both short and long-term objectives. The last advisory meeting was held in 2017. In addition to these formal reviews, DFO officials and industry representatives have an on-going dialogue on the fishery on a year-round basis. These informal discussions provide opportunities to review objectives and identify issues for discussion at the advisory meeting.

DFO NL Region completes an annual internal post-season review with participation from Resource Management, Conservation and Protection, and Science staff. Regional headquarters and area-based staff participate in this process to identify local, area, and regional fishery performance issues. DFO undertakes every effort to outline steps to address the issues, including assigning responsibility and setting timelines for completion. Those items not resolved during the post-season review are carried forward to the following year to be addressed.

The Performance Review outlines the activities and controls that are used in achieving fisheries management objectives. Table 3 identifies the specific strategies that are used to achieve fisheries management objectives.

Table 3: Measurable Objectives/Activities and Fisheries Management Strategies
Objectives Fisheries management strategies
Conservation and sustainable harvest
To conserve the Rock crab resource to provide commercial sustainability to fish harvesters
  • Fishing season
  • Quota monitoring
  • Limited Access
To mitigate the impacts on other species, habitat and the ecosystem where Rock crab fishing occurs, protecting biodiversity and ecosystem structure and function
  • Closed areas
  • Prohibit the use of monofilament netting material
To promote the development of sustainable fishing practices
  • Minimum size possession limit
To employ effective monitoring and surveillance tools and mechanisms that ensure compliance with conservation measures and provide scientists with appropriate information and basic data required to manage the Rock crab fishery
  • Adequate level of at-sea observer (ASO) coverage.
Benefits to Stakeholders
To promote the continued development of a commercially viable and self-sustaining fishery
  • Consult with stakeholders and monitor activity.

To provide fish harvesters with increased opportunity to develop long-term business stability

  • Evergreen management plans
To promote a co-management approach, providing stakeholders with an effective sharing of responsibility, accountability and decision making, within the constraints of the Fisheries Act
  • Establish an effective consultative process for stakeholders to participate in the decision-making process
  • Organize and participate in annual advisory meetings
  • Improve management of fishery through co-management

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) measures the performance of the fisheries that it manages through the Sustainability Survey for Fisheries (SFF). The survey is published every year and currently includes 177 fish stocks, with more added each year. The fish stocks were selected because of their economic or cultural importance; they represent the majority of total catch of fisheries managed by DFO.

The Sustainability Survey for Fisheries reports on the status of each fish stock and DFO’s progress to implement its Sustainable Fisheries Framework policies, a set of national policies to guide the sustainable management of Canada’s fisheries.

11.0 Glossary of terms

Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS):

Aquatic invasive species are fish, invertebrate or plant species that have been introduced into a new aquatic environment, outside of their natural range.

Once introduced, aquatic invasive species populations can grow quickly because they don’t have natural predators in their new environment. As a result, they can outcompete and harm native species. They can even alter habitats to make them inhospitable for the native species. This is especially concerning for species at risk.


an area defined by the Convention on Future Multilateral Cooperation in the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries by NAFO, and as described in the Atlantic Fishery Regulations, 1985

total weight of all individuals in a stock or a population
the unintentional catch of one species when the target is another species
Communal Commercial Licence:
licence issued to Aboriginal organizations pursuant to the Aboriginal Communal Fishing Licences Regulations for participation in the general commercial fishery
Fishing Effort:

quantity of effort using a given fishing gear over a given period of time

Food, Social and Ceremonial (FSC):
a fishery conducted by Aboriginal groups for food, social and ceremonial purposes
quantity of a species caught and landed
Marine Refuges:

a Marine Refuge is a Fisheries Act closure that meets the OEACM criteria established by the Department and is used to provide marine conservation in cases where the primary activity that poses a risk to an important species and habitat is fishing.p>

Mesh Size:
size of the mesh of a net. Different fisheries have different minimum mesh size regulations
Observer Coverage:

carrying a certified at-sea observer onboard a fishing vessel for a specific period of time to verify the amount of fish caught, the area in which it was caught and the method by which it was caught


fish that lives in the water column or close to the surface

group of individuals of the same species, forming a breeding unit, and sharing a habitat
Precautionary Approach:
set of agreed cost-effective measures and actions, including future courses of action, which ensures prudent foresight, reduces or avoids risk to the resource, the environment, and the people, to the extent possible, taking explicitly into account existing uncertainties and the potential consequences of being wrong
portion of the Total Allowable Catch that a fleet, vessel class, association, country, etc. is permitted to take from a stock in a given period of time
Species at Risk Act (SARA):
a federal law enabling the Government to take action to prevent wildlife species from becoming extinct and secure the necessary actions for their recovery. It provides the legal protection of wildlife species and the conservation of their biological diversity.
Spawning Stock:

sexually mature individuals in a stock

a population of individuals of one species found in a particular area, and used as a unit for fisheries management, e.g. NAFO area 4R Herring
Stock Assessment:
scientific evaluation of the status of a fish stock within a particular area in a given time period
Traditional Ecological Knowledge:
a cumulative body of knowledge and beliefs, handed down through generations by cultural transmission, about the relationship of living beings (including humans) with one another and with their environment
metric tonne, 1000kg or 2204.6 lbs

Appendix 1: 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 and other applicable agencies. Vessels subject to inspection should have a certificate of inspection valid for the area of intended operation.

In the federal government, responsibility for regulating shipping, navigation, and vessel safety lies with Transport Canada, while emergency response is the responsibility of the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG). DFO has responsibility for the management of fisheries resources, and in Newfoundland and Labrador, the provincial Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission (WHSCC) has jurisdiction over health and safety issues in the workplace.

Before leaving on a voyage the owner, master or operator must ensure that the fishing vessel is capable of safely making the passage. Critical factors for a safe voyage include:

Useful publications include Transport Canada’s Small Fishing Vessel Safety Manual which can be obtained from TC or printed from their website.

Fishing vessel safety includes three priority areas:

Fishing vessel stability

Vessel stability is paramount for safety. Care must be given to the stowage and securing of all cargo, skiffs, equipment, fuel containers and supplies, and also to correct ballasting. Fish harvesters must be familiar with their vessel’s centre of gravity, the effect of free surface liquids on stability, loose water or fish on deck, loading and unloading operations and the vessel’s freeboard. Fish harvesters should know the limitations of their vessels. If unsure, the vessel operator should contact a qualified naval architect, marine surveyor or the local Transport Canada Marine Safety office.

Fishing vessel owners are required to develop detailed instructions addressing the limits of stability for each of their vessels. The instructions must be based on a formal assessment of the vessel by a qualified naval architect and include detailed safe operation documentation. Instructions should be kept on board the vessel at all times.

Fishing vessel owners should also keep on-board detailed documentation on engine room procedures, maintenance schedules to ensure watertight integrity, and instructions for regular practice of emergency drills.

Emergency drill requirements

The vessel master must establish procedures and assign responsibilities to each crew member for emergencies such as crew member overboard, fire, flooding, abandoning ship and calling for help.

Since July 30, 2003 all crew members with more than six months at sea are required to have taken minimum Marine Emergency Duties (MED) training or be registered for such training.

MED provides a basic understanding of:

Cold water immersion

Drowning is the number one cause of death in the fishing industry. Cold water is defined as water below 25 degrees Celsius, but the greatest effects occur below 15 degrees Celsius. Newfoundland and Labrador waters are usually below 15 degrees.

The effects of cold water on the body occur in four stages:

Vessel masters should know what to do to prevent themselves or their crew from falling into the water and what to do if that occurs.

Other issues


Vessel owners and masters are reminded of the importance of paying close attention to current weather trends and forecasts during the voyage. Marine weather information and forecasts can be obtained from Environment Canada’s website.

Emergency radio procedures

Vessel owners and masters should ensure that all crew are able to activate the Search and Rescue (SAR) system by contacting the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) early rather than later.     It is strongly recommended that all fish harvesters carry a registered 406 MHz Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB). These beacons should be registered with Coast Guard’s National Search and Rescue secretariat. When activated, an EPIRB transmits a distress call that is picked up or relayed by satellites and transmitted via land earth stations to the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre (JRCC), which will task and co-ordinate rescue resources.

All crew members should know how to make a distress call and should obtain their restricted operator certificate from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (formerly Industry Canada). Whenever possible, masters should contact the nearest Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) station prior to a distress situation developing. Correct radio procedures are important for communications in an emergency. Incorrect or misunderstood communications may hinder a rescue response.

Since August 1, 2003 all commercial vessels greater than 20 metres in length are required to carry a Class D VHF Digital Selective Calling (DSC) radio. A registered DSC VHF radio has the capability to alert other DSC equipped vessels in the immediate area and advise Coast Guard MCTS that the vessel is in distress. Masters should be aware that they should register their DSC radios with ISED Canada to obtain a Marine Mobile Services Identity (MMSI) number; otherwise the automatic distress calling feature of the radio may not work.

A DSC radio that is connected to a GPS unit will also automatically include the vessel’s current position in the distress message. More detailed information on MCTS and DSC can be obtained by contacting a local MCTS center or from the Canadian Coast Guard.

Collison regulations

Fish harvesters should have a thorough knowledge of the Collision Regulations and the responsibilities between vessels where risk of collision exists. Navigation lights must be kept in good working order and must be displayed from sunset to sunrise and during all times of restricted visibility. To help reduce the potential for collision or close quarters situations that may also result in the loss of fishing gear, fish harvesters are encouraged to monitor the appropriate local Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) VHF channel, when travelling or fishing near shipping lanes or other areas frequented by large commercial vessels.

Vessels required to participate in VTS include:

Exceptions include:

Additional information can be found on the Collision Regulations page.

Sail plan

An important trip consideration is the use of a sail plan which includes the particulars of the vessel, crew and voyage. The sail plan should be left with a responsible person on shore or filed with the local MCTS centre. After leaving port the fish harvester should contact the holder of the sail plan daily or as per another schedule. The sail plan should ensure notification to JRCC when communication is not maintained which might indicate your vessel is in distress. Be sure to cancel the sail plan upon completion of the voyage.

Appendix 2: Departmental contacts

DFO Newfoundland and Labrador Region Headquarters
P.O. Box 5667, St. John’s, NL, A1C 5X1

Gary Bruce, Senior Resource Manager
Resource Management and Indigenous Fisheries
Telephone: 709-772-4432
Fax: 709-772-3628

Kerry Bungay, Chief of Enforcement Operations
Conservation and Protection
Telephone: 709-772-2915
Fax: 709-772-4327

Julia Pantin, Shellfish Biologist
Shellfish Science
Telephone: 709-772-2090
Fax: 709-772-4188

Jason Kelly, Senior Biologist
Fish and Fish Habitat Protection Program
Telephone: 709-772-4126
Fax: 709-772-5562

Frank Corbett, Policy Analyst
Policy and Economics
Telephone: 709-772-6935
Fax: 709-772-4583

DFO Newfoundland and Labrador Area Offices – Resource Management and Indigenous Fisheries

Laurie Hawkins, Area Chief (4R3Ps)
Corner Brook, NL
Telephone: 709-637-4310
Fax: 709-637-4476

David Small, Area Chief (3KL)
Grand Falls-Winsor, NL
Telephone: 709-292-5167
Fax: 709-292-5205

Mark Simms, Area Chief
Happy Valley-Goose Bay, NL
Telephone: 709-896-6157
Fax: 709-896-8419

DFO Newfoundland and Labrador Area Offices – Conservation and Protection

Chad Ward, Area Chief (3KLPs)
St. John's, NL
Telephone: 709-772-5857
Fax: 709-772-2659

Brent Watkins, Area Chief (2GHJ, 3K, 4R3Pn)
Corner Brook, NL
Telephone: 709-637-4334
Fax: 709-637-4445

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