Gulf of St. Lawrence: undervalued halibut stocks?

fletan-poisson-dont-peche-plusThis is the season of the halibut fishery in Canada and quotas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence are very low, to the dismay of Quebec fishermen, who lose significant revenue.

“If halibut is poles apart from that of cod,” says Dominique Robert Québec researcher from Memorial University of Newfoundland.

In the case of cod, the data exists and indicate that stocks are low. In the case of the Gulf halibut, everything indicates that there is a lot of fish, but there is no data that confirm precisely. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has unfortunately not yet readings to know the absolute abundance for this region, says Dominique Robert.

Is that halibut is not easy to observe: it is a solitary fish, which does not move in bed. Adult, it is too big to be caught in trawl nets that make statements. Fisheries and Oceans Canada will apply a precautionary approach, to prevent overfishing. In some places, such as in the Magdalen Islands, fishing by speed limit is so low that it can be achieved in a single day at sea. The halibut fish for which fishing is the most lucrative in Canada.

“It’s been years that fishermen say the quotas are too low, notes Dominique Robert, because the resource is abundant.” Unlike the situation that divides the cod fishermen and scientists, everybody agrees on the fact that there is a phenomenal amount of halibut in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

“When we look at the trends, it is clear that something is happening,” says Jean-Claude Brêthes, of the Marine Science Institute of the University of Quebec at Rimouski. Scientists can evaluate the situation by observing the halibut fishing yields and statements made on that small halibut caught in trawls. According to Jean-Claude Brêthes during the past eight years, we can evaluate that returns have tripled.

“Beau problem”

“I described the situation to the nice problem halibut, said Dominique Robert, because instead of focusing research to try to understand why a stock collapsed, the research aims to accurately determine the state of a stock health and commercial value. “The researcher is part of a working group on halibut Gulf, established by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to investigate the situation of the fish. This fall, the federal Department will also launch a pilot survey in the northern Gulf of St. Lawrence in collaboration with fishermen from Quebec and Newfoundland.

The lack of accurate data on the biomass of the Gulf halibut enemy in achieving sustainable fishing certification, which would increase its value on the market. Quebec fishermen are doubly penalized: they fish less and receive less for their catches.

There are two Atlantic halibut stocks: the St. Lawrence Gulf and the Scotian Shelf. Halibut are caught mainly in Nova Scotia where there are statements that adjust quotas depending on the performance of the species.

It is even much caught illegally Fisheries and Oceans Canada issued more than 160 violation notices for a total of $ 1.2 million in fines for illegal fishing of Atlantic halibut from 2010 to 2014. The majority offenders come from the Maritimes, but there were 25 convictions in Quebec for illegal fishing halibut. “Across the Atlantic, there is a high risk that the halibut fishery is the subject of illegal activity because of substantial financial gains derived from them,” the spokesman for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Frank Stanek . The survey for the dismantling of the fishing network was conducted in collaboration with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

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