New DFO whale entanglement regulations to change fishing gear
Returning from Black’s Harbour, where his company’s rope-to-order system is being tested, Aaron Stevenson had not seen the federal fisheries minister’s announcement on Wednesday afternoon.
“I certainly hope we can get access to it,” said Stevenson, co-founder of Ashored Inc., of the $20 million federal funding for research into fishing gear that reduces the impact or prevent whale entanglements.
The Bedford-based company is developing a system that keeps the rope and buoy coiled up on the ocean floor until the fishing boat arrives. An acoustic signal is then sent from the boat which floats the rope and buoy to the surface, where they can be used to hoist the traps on board. By keeping the rope out of the water column, entanglements with whales can be avoided.
“It allows you to have an underwater map of the location of all the gear, which can be transmitted to other vessels, like a scallop dragger,” Stevenson explained.
“Because Bob might not want everyone to know where he puts his gear, it would just say there’s gear there, not who it belongs to.”
Ashored Inc. aims to be ready to go into production before new Fisheries and Oceans Canada rules come into effect for the 2023 commercial seasons which will require that any gear left unattended in the water, such as lobster traps or crab, either use low breaking strength rope or systems like the one just explained.
The $20 million announced by Federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan will be donated to the Whalesafe Gear Adoption Fund. Businesses, nonprofits, universities, First Nations and other groups can apply for funding to help develop equipment beginning Friday, August 13, 2021. The goal of the program is to have commercially available options, such as low breaking strength ropes. and ropeless fishing technologies (like that owned by Ashored Inc.) available by 2023.
“This program is another big step forward in our joint efforts,” Jordan said in the press release announcing the program and goals.
“By helping our industry partners implement new whale-safe equipment, we are investing in our seafood sector and building a stronger, more sustainable blue economy for Canadians.
Ginny Boudreau has some thoughts on Jordan’s press release, his plan to implement as yet unproven technologies by 2023, and the consultation undertaken with the commercial fishing sector.
“It is the fishermen who are going to have to pay for all of this and will bear the costs of lost equipment and time and they have not been properly consulted.”
– Ginny Boudreau, Executive Director of the Guysborough County Inshore Fishermen’s Association
“Could she or her department come and meet the fishermen face to face and wait until they have proper discussions?” asked the general manager of the Guysborough County Inshore Fishermens Association.
“It is the fishermen who are going to have to pay for all of this and will suffer the costs of lost equipment and time and they have not been properly consulted. It’s all been through Zoom and Microsoft Teams and other social media platforms that fishermen don’t know how to use or can’t use because they don’t have access to high-speed internet in rural Nova Scotia. .
Boudreau participated in online consultations held due to COVID-19 restrictions and said the plan is to have all unsupervised fixed gear fisheries that cannot use rope with a breaking point of less than 771 kilograms to use new technologies – such as the escapement of sleeves or equipment that releases a rope and a buoy when a signal is sent from the ship.
Although Jordan was unavailable for an interview, Fisheries and Oceans Canada confirmed that the fisheries affected would include lobster, crab (snow, toad and rock), whelk, cod, herring, mackerel, halibut Atlantic halibut, Greenland halibut and winter flounder.
“These technologies are only tested in a handful of specific fisheries in specific areas, they haven’t been tested in all fisheries or all areas,” Boudreau said.
Lobster fishermen along its coast fish a single line and buoy to a trap. They typically use rope with a breaking strength of about 1,000 kilograms, but in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where six or seven traps are tied together in a dump, they use rope with a breaking strength of breaking from 2,041 to 2,495 kilograms.
This means that both groups of anglers would be faced with installing detachable sleeves on their gear or technologies that hold the buoy and rope to the bottom, such as those tested by Ashored Inc.
But, Boudreau points out, detachable sleeves come loose, which potentially means more lost gear, lost fishing time, and more ghost gear on the bottom or floating in the water column.
Ashored Inc.’s technology has not been tested on a large scale, such as in St. George’s Bay where the bottom is dotted with traps belonging to different fishermen. Then there is the cost.
“We’re still refining that,” Stevens said when asked about the price of each of his units.
“It’s cost effective – you have to look at the cost of not fishing if an area or area is closed or you can’t fish. … They are made of stainless steel, very sturdy configurations intended to last eight to 10 years with proper maintenance. It wouldn’t pay for itself in one season, but would certainly show its value over a longer period.
The Guysborough County Inshore Fishermen’s Association has proposed risk assessments to be applied to each fishery and fishing area so rules can be tailored to the likelihood of whale entanglement. But that didn’t happen.
“How are you going to implement something when the research has never been done for its site-specific effectiveness,” Boudreau said.
“Fishermen love whales, most love seeing them and know the ecosystem is healthy and no one wants to waste their gear or fishing time. But it seems to me that DFO is trying to apply a one-size-fits-all solution.