Heavy wait for the bait fishermen of the Islands

The fishermen, of these two fish which serve as boëtte for lobster, expected to get an answer in September, then in October, but did not hear from the department.

For the moment, we are still in analysis indicates Cédric Arseneau, the regional director of the DFO in the Magdalen Islands, Cédric Arseneau.

Morale is therefore at an all-time low among Magdalen bait fishermen who still fear the imposition of a moratorium. A bait fisherman for 13 years, Réjean Turbide considers this wait intolerable. We live a punishment. A peach is not prepared in the spring, but in the fall.

Everything is therefore at a standstill for the fishing group. I assembled the boat, I didn’t touch anything, no painting, no renovation, I’m waiting for answers from the ministry. His fisherman’s helper promised to wait until Christmas before looking for another job.

In 2017, the trailer used to transport boats between the wharf and the storage yard dropped a boat.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Martin Toulgoat

I think about it regularly, 23 hours a day admits Mr. Turbide. I dream of it at night. We live in an unbearable situation, inside couples, inside houses, families, there are repercussions. (…) Since we are just eight fishermen, we are considered to be m…

A livelihood

Réjean Turbide is also worried about young people who have just invested in fishing.

This is the case of Paul-André Arseneau who became a bait fisherman at the end of August 2020. To pay for the boat, the permits, the fishing tackle and the necessary personnel, Paul-André Arseneau obtained a loan of 400 $000 from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of Quebec (MAPAQ).

Three months later, in November 2020, he learned that a moratorium was among the hypotheses studied by Fisheries and Oceans in order to restore the resource. He still wonders why DFO accepted his permit application and MAPAQ that of financing when the closure of the fishery was envisaged.

He was finally able to fish during the 2021 and 2022 seasons, but there is uncertainty again. I have a loan to repay over 25 yearsexplains the young fisherman. I have to support my family too. I have three children and I have my wife and I have me. We are not just talking about a loan to pay. We talk about living. It’s my annual income. If there is no fishing, what do I do? It doesn’t sleep well.

Unable to promise a season, the fisherman has lost his deckhand and sees time slipping away if fishing resumes.

Like Réjean Turbide, he reminds us that a peach has to be prepared starting in the fall. We have trawls to do, he says, we have money to invest, cables to buy, it takes time to get to the islands with transport and all that. If we are given quotas for 2023, will we be able to turn around to fish? It stresses me out a lot, then at the same time, if it closes, what’s their plan?

Two species and two visions

The regional director of DFO is well aware of the fact that relatively young fishermen have recently entered the fishery. Care has been taken to explain the stock situation for each new entrantassures Cédric Arseneau, who recalls the many discussions held with fishermen on the future of fishing.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada estimates that the population of the two species is at a threshold below which it risks suffering serious damage, which jeopardizes its recovery. This has been the case, according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, since 2006 for winter flounder and 2009 for yellowtail flounder.

It is certain that in this context, we will try to reduce mortality to its lowest level as soon as possible.confirms Cédric Arseneau.

The fishermen disagree with the department’s assessments, which they believe are responsible for the situation.

Réjean Turbide says that for five years, until 2012, the ministry authorized the 325 lobster fishermen on the islands to fish their own bait, without any real supervision.

The Madelinot considers this period as devastating for the stock. The fisherman, who blames the department’s management and not the lobster boats, even goes so far as to speak of massive destruction.

He feels that he and his group of fishermen are now serving as a scapegoat. For past mistakes, he said, we will take the blame until the last minute, but we will defend ourselves. We are just eight fishermen, but we are determined.

We are the ones who will suffer the consequences with no alternative program for us, no assistance program, no parachute. »

A quote from Réjean Turbide, bait fisherman

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans admits that 10 years later, with a very limited fishery, the harvest remains marginal and that the fishery is not the cause of the decline. However, the population is not recovering, mainly due to seal predation.

Réjean Turbide considers that the situation of dab and plaice is more complex. Fishermen maintain that the resource is recovering. They say the big fish have been back for the past three seasons, despite seal predation.

After 2012, he says, dab and plaice needed time to grow. It’s seven years for dab. We are in 2022, it has been almost three years that we can say that we are seeing beautiful mature fish again. For him, the landings up by more than 15% confirm this hypothesis.


Fisheries and Oceans Canada estimates that the population of the two species is at a threshold below which it risks suffering serious damage, which compromises its recovery (file photo).

Photo: Radio-Canada

In addition, Réjean Turbide also wonders about the sampling sites that serve as a basis for the analysis of biologists that he believes are too deep and outside the habitat of the two species.

He argues that yellowtail flounder, a species specific to the Islands, does not frequent the depths where the trawl of the DFObut shallow and sandy bottoms. Hard to find if you search in the wrong placesraises the fisherman.

For the fisherman, several measures to preserve the species from overfishing have been put in place by fishermen, such as the ban on fishing at night or the release of small fish. With a survival rate of 75%, notes Mr. Turbide. Quotas have also been halved.

What is unfortunate in this is that we see that the results are not there.comments the regional director of the DFO in the Magdalen Islands.

Our primary objective is to continue to have discussions with the industry to restore stocks quickly. »

A quote from Cédric Arseneau, regional director of DFO in the Magdalen Islands

Réjean Turbide points out that over the past three seasons, turned upside down by the pandemic, the observers at sea, who check the catches on behalf of the ministry, have been more often absent than present. There, the department is going to close this fishery with no real data on board our boats for the last three years, imagine that they are in a hurry to close it.

>A fisherman in a trawler handles a net>

In addition, Réjean Turbide also wonders about the sampling sites which serve as a basis for the analysis of biologists who consider them too deep and outside the habitat of the two species (archive photos).

Photo: Getty Images/Christopher Furlong

Réjean Turbide adds that biologists need this data precisely to assess a possible recovery of the two species. Data, they won’t have any more if the fishery is completely closedhe argues.

The bait race

If a possible moratorium directly targets the members of the Island Bait Fishermen’s Association, the issue also affects lobster fishermen.

The supply of bait is becoming an increasingly delicate issue on the Islands, particularly with the closure of the spring herring and mackerel fishery. We recognize, observes Cédric Arseneau, that it is [la limande et la plie rouge] a significant supply of fresh bait, but at the same time, we also know that lobster fishermen will probably have other alternatives to find other bait.

Bait fishing is a mobile gear fishery that could be converted to redfish fishing. There is however far from the cut to the lipsobserves fisherman Paul-André Arseneau.

They [les fonctionnaires du MPO] talked about redfishreports the fisherman. The rest of us, what we hear is that redfish is [l’autorisation de la pêche] in three years. I’m not sure we can survive three years without sinning. We would like a status quo for three years, at least in the dab to then prepare to fish for redfish, redfish.

>Yellowtail flounder in bags.>

Yellowtail flounder is used to bait lobster (file photo).

Photo: Hélène Laurendeau

Both the Rally of Fishermen and Fisherwomen of the Coast of the Islands (RPPCI) and the Association of Fishermen of the Magdalen Islands (APIM) have written to the Minister of Fisheries, Joyce Murray, asking her to maintain the fishery. .

For the RPPCI, the dab fishery should be maintained for at least the next three years. In the event of further deterioration of the resource, the group of 200 lobster fishermen is asking that the department be able to finance bait fishermen so that they can adapt to redfish fishing.

We are trying to make a decision on the future of the fishery as quickly as possible, precisely out of transparency, to try to reduce the stress on the industryassures the director of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine region, Cédric Arseneau.

He promises a decision within the next few weeks. There will be a recovery plan that will be tabled for winter flounder, probably over the next year in 2023 and there will also eventually be a recovery plan that will be established for yellowtail flounder.specifies the regional director of Fisheries and Oceans.

The question of the moratorium remains a possibility, admits the spokesman of the DFO. As for financial compensation in the event of a possible moratorium, Mr. Arseneau recalls that this is not a tool used by Fisheries and Oceans in recent years.

The article is in French

Tags: Heavy wait bait fishermen Islands

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