The lobster fishery in Canada has one of the longest histories of regulation. Many of the management measures in place today date back over a century, with the first sustainability measure – protection of egg-bearing females – put in place in the early 1870s.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada works closely with the lobster fishing industry to develop and update Integrated Fisheries Management Plans that cover the lobster fisheries. Management measures are tailored to the unique needs of each Lobster Fishing Area.
The inshore lobster fishery is managed by “input control,” which means that a limit is placed on fishing efforts. Sustainability measures include:
- a limited number of licences issued, with limits on the number of traps;
- limited and staggered fishing seasons – lobster fishing is generally prohibited between July and the end of September to protect summer moults;
- protection of egg-bearing females – females bearing eggs must be released back into the environment alive to ensure the reproductive cycle continues (harvesters may voluntarily cut a small v-shaped notch in the female’s tail prior to release to ensure it will be released in the future, even when not bearing eggs);
- minimum lobster size limits – a measure to increase the likelihood that lobsters reach full adult maturity and reproduce;
- maximum lobster size limits (or a closed window size as an alternative measure) which protects large lobsters that proportionally produce more eggs;
- trap designs that allow undersized lobsters to escape and that include biodegradable escape panels to ensure traps lost at sea will not continue catching lobsters and other species;
- Several lobster licence buy back programs which reduces the fleet size and therefore the fishing effort on the water;
- Trap reduction programs that bring old gear back to shore as to not entangle marine life;
- PEI fishers participate in the Lobster Index Logbook program and the At-Sea Lobster Data Collection & Sampling program. These statistics helps track trends of lobster populations around PEI
- To ensure PEI lobster is fished legally and during the regular season, trace-ability measures have been put into place
- PEI fishers have participated in many research opportunities to improve the understanding of the lobster fishery, including the Lobster Moult and Quality project.
- Prime lobster habitat is protected through buffer zones
- PEI Fishers voluntarily do not fish on Sundays
- ongoing monitoring and enforcement of fishing regulations and licence conditions.
The offshore lobster fishery in area 41 has many of the same conservation measures in place as well as an annual limit on the number of lobsters that may be caught, referred to as total allowable catch. The current total allowable catch for this fishery is 720 tonnes and has remained unchanged since 1989.