In May, 2013. GAP2 researchers and stakeholders travelled to St. Andrews to attend the Canadian Fisheries Research Network (CFRN) annual meeting. Whilst in Canada, GAP2 researchers Marloes Kraan, Pablo Pita Orduna and Saša Raicevich, were be accompanied by fishers from their case studies to work with local lobster fishers, exchanging ideas about best-practices in fisheries, participatory research and how knowledge can be linked to policy. Read all the posts from this exchange here…
Italian scientist, Saša Raicevich and fisher, Renzo Zennaro spent a day with some local lobster fishermen and Saša found time to record his reflections of the day at sea…
After kindly being hosted by Reid and Julie Brown last night (15th May), we boarded the fishing vessel, “Island Horizon” to fish for lobsters around Deer Island. It was still early morning when Italian fisherman, Renzo Zennaro and I were welcomed aboard by Roy Pendleton (the Master) and his crew, Wade Richardson and Loren Pendleton as we cast off from the pier.
The Lobster fishery is well developed on the Eastern coast of Canada and lobsters represent one of the most important fishery resources for small scale fishers in the area. However, according to the fishers, the main issue they are facing is the lobsters’ market value which is currently low and causing difficulties.
Fishing for lobsters might seem to be an “easy” activity (at least here, around Deer Island where they are so abundant). You “only” need a trap, a boat, some bait, a rope and a buoy. To catch the lobsters, you go to sea, leave the trap, and when you come back, you bring the trap on board with a (or several) lobsters waiting for you!
In reality, like all fishing activities, lobster fishing is not easy and must be carried out by skilled fishermen. What seems to be simple is the result of years of experience, mistakes and practical solutions. On our boat the coordination between captain and the crew is perfect, everyone knows what to do and the crew quickly and efficiently process a remarkable number of traps! The tidal range is nearly the highest in the world (up to about 10 m) meaning also there can be very strong tidal currents (up to 4.5 kts), depending where you are fishing. Unsurprisingly, this has a big effect on fishing activities, as it is only possible to retrieve traps on board during some stages of the tidal cycle.
It’s impressive how at home we have been made to feel at home here, in Canada and on board the Island horizon. Renzo and myself started talking about the fisheries in Italy, the history of fishing in Renzo’s family, the problems we are facing and why we feel the need to create better dialogue and collaboration between scientists, fishermen and stakeholders. We discuss the sustainability of lobster fisheries, the rules they are applying, problems and solutions, the fishing season and other fishing activities they are carrying out during winter, such as scallop dredging. What’s amazing, is to see this exchange of experience paying attention to all the relevant issues, from biological to technical and management aspects!
While we are all talking, the fishermen kept fishing without taking a break. When emptying the traps, the fishermen select only those lobsters above the minimum landing size. Lobsters who are too small, egg bearing females and v-notched individuals are thrown back into the sea as each lobster is assessed one by one and with great attention.
The day really is passing fast! The fishermen never stop their work and lobster catch increases, at the end of this day they will have caught about 5, each about 100-125lbs. Renzo andI have never seen so many lobsters in our lives, it’s brilliant! But what is really brilliant is the willingness of the fishers to share experience, discuss issues, and the fact that so many of the problems we are facing in Italian fisheries were also experienced (to different extents), by Canadian fishermen and sometimes still faced.
The experience has inspired all of us, and will undoubtedly lead our future steps in enhancing fishermen and stakeholders collaboration.
What does the future hold? We’ll see!