Nova Scotia Lobster Conservation

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An open letter:

In recent weeks it has become clear that the local fishermen in Digby county are growing more and more concerned with the conservation and sustainability of lobster in the waters off of the shores of Nova Scotia.

The current threats to Nova Scotia’s lobster population are numerous. Right now we’ve hit the sweet spot of climate change for the lobster fisheries, with the average water temperature in the Gulf of Maine (which leads into the Bay of Fundy) increasing 0.22*C in the last 10 years (1). With these warmer waters lobsters are able to mature more quickly than historically noted (2), as well as the populations of potential predators are lowered, such as wolffish, cod, cusk, haddock (although some of this decline can also be attributed to overfishing) (3). However we need to remain aware that the change in temperature hasn’t stopped, and in fact has been increasing exponentially. That 0.22*C in 10 years can be compared to the 0.03*C increase in the last 30 years (1), and with Nova Scotia projected to be 2.3*C warmer in the next 30 years, it won’t be long before we cross the threshold into a population decline (4). The warmer waters can kill off large patches of seagrass, the lobsters preferred habitat. Acidification of the ocean water corrodes the compound needed for them to make their shells, and the changing temperature also induces them into an additional molt, both resulting in softer shells. Changing currents lowers the oxygen levels in the water, driving them into deeper waters if it doesn’t suffocate them. As stress from any of these issues lowers their immune system, they’re more prone to shell diseases. Shell disease wiped out 70% of the lobster population in Long Island Sound (5), and since so many people, both native and non-native, depend on the lobster as their livelihood that would be catastrophic for Nova Scotian fisherman, their families, and their communities.

We want to ensure that conservation efforts are properly managed by all parties involved and that DFO is doing their part to enforce rules and regulations on the water.

In order to ensure sustainability, we must cap the number of traps that are entering the waters in Nova Scotia, and we must also limit the number of licenses that are being provided to fishermen around the province, not only in the Digby area.

The end result of these conservation efforts would allow the lobster population to remain sustainable for future generations to come. We ask that the allowable weight for the catch to be lowered to ensure lobster population to remain prosperous.

We must also ensure that all parties are following all regulations when it comes to lobster fishing.

Along with current conservation efforts, the recommendation for a sustainable future for all:

- 250 traps per commercial license (Mi'kmaq fisherman have 50 under the moderate livelihood agreement)

- 750 commercial licenses per year

- If you are caught three times in a season not following conservation efforts by DFO or breaking any laws of you can lose your privilege to obtain a license the following year

- Making some deep water areas off limits to lobster fishing to allow colder water for the lobster populations to retreat too

I would like to commend the fishermen who so diligently brought to our attention their efforts to remind us that conservation is the biggest issue on the water, and I am sure they too also will accept these changes in a major effort to protect our waters and environment from over fishing. It is because of them that I was inspired to write this letter to you.

If the public wants lobster for their children's future, conservation is key. 

The Mi'kmaq have the right to fish under the 1752 Treaty which was affirmed by the Donald Marshall Decision in 1999 and the Treaty Rights should be enforces and upheld.

The Mikmaq will continue to diligently practice conservation guidelines that have been set by DFO and enforced by Mikmaq Guardians, and we hope that the commercial fisherman in Nova Scotia will also understand that because conservation is very important for sustainability of the industry effort must be made on both sides. 

If you would like to see these conservation efforts made and agree that the above limits should be implemented to all, please sign.


Your Mi'kmaq Friends