CBC News Posted: May 20, 2016 4:48 PM AT Last Updated: May 20, 2016 7:46 PM AT
The minimum size of lobsters that can be caught in the Northumberland Strait will be 73 mm, effective this season. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
New Brunswick lobster fishermen are "ecstatic" about the federal government's decision to increase the minimum size for lobster harvested between the southeast of the province and P.E.I., by five millimetres over the next three years.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada issued a notice on Friday, informing harvesters of the change for the western half of the Northumberland Strait, known as Lobster Fishing Area 25.
"Our harvesters feel this is an historical decision," said Christian Brun, executive secretary of the Maritime Fishermen's Union in New Brunswick.
It comes after a long-standing dispute between fishermen in New Brunswick and P.E.I. over carapace size, he said.
Christian Brun is the executive secretary of the Maritime Fishermens' Union. (Radio-Canada)
New Brunswick fishermen, who make up the majority of harvesters in the zone, contend larger lobster will:
"It's not just about this year, it's not just about 10 years from now, there are other generations that have to benefit from this fishery," said Brun.
"So it's very important. It's extremely important."
The legal harvesting size will increase by one millimetre to 73 mm this season, and will further increase to 75 mm in 2017 and 77 mm in 2018, according to the government notice.
"This decision was taken after numerous consultation meetings with First Nations, aboriginal organizations, industry, provincial governments and processors in New Brunswick, Prince Island and Nova Scotia over the last several years," the notice states.
Increasing the size will have conservation benefits, by allowing more female lobsters to reproduce, the notice said.
P.E.I. fishermen have long fought against increasing the carapace size, arguing they have good markets for smaller lobster.
But Fisheries and Oceans Canada said increasing the size gradually over three years will allow harvesters and markets to adjust.
The lobster carapace size will increase gradually over 3 years in LFA 25.
Brun applauded Minister Hunter Tootoo for the making the decision based on "science-based arguments" and in the face of opposition.
Tootoo replaced P.E.I. native Gail Shea, who served as the MP for Egmont.
The P.E.I. Fishermen's Association plans to meet with Tootoo, said executive director Ian MacPherson. He contends the science does not support the size increase.
Further details on other management measures, as well as the opening date of the fishery will be issued at a later date, the notice said.
Lobster Fishing Area 25 covers parts of New Brunswick, P.E.I. and Nova Scotia.
There are 721 licences for fishing in that zone of the Gulf of St. Lawrence — 470 from New Brunswick, 225 from P.E.I. and 16 from Nova Scotia.
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