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Fisheries and Aquaculture Division (Page 1)


The Fisheries and Aquaculture Division provides programs and services to both the marine fisheries and aquaculture sectors in order to fulfil its mandate and to achieve its goals of providing quality advice, assistance and information to clients.

In marine fisheries, the division acts as an advocate for the Prince Edward Island fishing industry and takes part in many species advisory committees with the industry and the federal government, which manages marine fisheries resources. The division carries out basic biological research in support of major fish species such as lobster, as well as developmental or emerging species; offers programs to support new technology in the fishery; and assists the seafood processing sector with programs to enhance value-added processing of seafood. The division also promotes fish quality through the administration
of the Prince Edward Island Fish Inspection Act and the Prince Edward Island Fisheries Act which includes responsibility for licensing and inspection of all fish-buying stations and fish-processing facilities.

The aquaculture sector continues to make a strong contribution to the fishery and remains a sector with potential for further growth and increased economic returns. The division provides programming to support the growth and sustainability of aquaculture businesses. As well, assistance is provided to encourage new technology in aquaculture, and research is carried out on species which offer potential for culture. Staff of the division have expertise in all facets of aquaculture production and provide essential technical services to the industry.

Division Overview

The fishing industry employs approximately 9,200 people in the harvesting and processing sectors. Lobster continues to be the leader with a landed value to fishermen of just over $105 million. The Island’s aquaculture industry, consisting primarily of oysters, mussels and finfish, contributed more than $32 million in 2003. This sector of the industry continues to grow and create new employment in the province. For other statistics on the fisheries and aquaculture industries, and historical data on mussel landings and values, see Appendices I and II respectively.

The overall economic impact to Prince Edward Island from the fishery, including the service sector, is more than $340 million. For detailed information on fish landings and values, see Appendix III.

Marine Fisheries Section

The Marine Fisheries Section acts as an advocate for the PEI fishing industry and takes part in many species advisory committees with the federal government (which manages marine fisheries resources) and industry members.

It also carries out basic biological research in support of major fish species such as lobster as well as support the development of emerging species. The Lobster Resource Monitoring Program continued in 2003, research on the migration of lobsters was instigated, and a multi-year lobster management plan for the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence was announced. As well, the toad crab fishery was studied by the department and Fisheries and Oceans to advance it to the commercial fishery stage.

Programs were offered to support new technology in the fishery and assistance was provided to the seafood proecessing sectors with programs to enhance value-added processing of seafood in Prince Edward Island. 

Lobster Resource Monitoring Program

The Lobster Resource Monitoring Program continued in 2003 with the collection of data through at-sea sampling by technicians and volunteer fishers gathering daily data from special and designated traps. The information gathered through this program will maintain a detailed profile of the harvestable lobster resource caught in Island waters. The department’s lobster biologist and three technicians, hired through a contract with the Prince Edward Island Fisherman’s Association, sampled onboard commercial lobster boats for a total of 94 fishing days during the spring and fall seasons. The experimental trap program had 108 volunteer fishers, representing 37 Island ports. Information was collected on the lobsters caught from more than 35,000 trap hauls.

Lobster Research

In 2003, the division’s staff tagged 151 female lobsters that were returned to the water during the commercial fishery as required by the prohibited size range of 115mm to 129mm set out in the 2003 management plan. Recaptures of these individuals during subsequent fishing activity will lead to a better understanding of the movement and migration of these lobsters. The department continued its financial support by contributing core funding to the Atlantic Veterinary College’s Lobster Science Centre.

Lobster Management

A multi-year lobster management plan for the southern Gulf of St.Lawrence was announced on April 3, 2003. All three Island LFA’s (24, 25, and 26A) were provided with a minimum carapace size increase schedule as follows: 68.5 mm in 2003 (1mm), 69.5 mm in 2004 (1mm), and 70 mm in 2005 (0.5mm). Also announced for 2003, was the implementation of a prohibited size range of 115 mm to 129 mm whereby all female lobsters in that range were to be returned to the water. Males in this size range were allowed to be retained. Industry consultations and joint Department of Fisheries and Oceans and industry working groups were initiated in 2003 to look at data collection, catch and effort reductions, and minimizing impact of dragging on lobster habitat with implementation of measures by 2004.

Lobster Landings

Catches for the 2003 season were approximately 13 million pounds in LFA 24; 4.6 million pounds in LFA 26A; and 2.4 million pounds for LFA 25, for a total of 20.0 million pounds. Historical data on lobster landings and values can be found in Appendix IV.

Northern Shrimp

The department is continuing its efforts to have the temporary allocation for northern shrimp given permanent status. Prince Edward Island is the only Atlantic province without a permanent attachment to this fishery. The 2003 Total Allowable Catchh (TAC) rose from 110,052 metric tonnes(mt) to 152,102 mt. Despite this increase in TAC, the Prince Edward Island quota remained at 1500 mt.

Gulf Shrimp

The total allowable catch in 2003 was lowered to 27,710 metric tonne; and Prince Edward Island had its temporary allocation of 209.5 mt reduced to 152t. The department continues to seek a permanent status in this fishery.

Snow Crab

The 2003 Area 12 snow crab plan called for a 20 per cent reduction in the allowable snow crab catch. In addition 15 per cent of the quota would be allocated to “ new entrants” or the former non- traditional allocations. The total allowable catch in Area 12 was set at 17,148 metric tonnes. The traditional fleet received 5.0743 percent of the allocation; the Fishermen’s Association received an initial 110 mt; plus a later allocation of 75 mt was made available to non-traditional fishers for sharing. The department will continue to seek an equitable share of the snow crab resource.

The Zone E snow crab TAC was 350 mt. The allocation was 43.75 mt. Prince Edward Island maintains one permanent licence in this zone.

Toad Crab

To assist in the advancement of the toad crab (Hyas sp.) fishery to the commercial fishery stage of Fisheries and Oceans’s Emerging Fisheries Policy, staff from the department worked in collaboration with Fisheries and Oceans biologists to collect data that would be used to determine size distribution within the crab population and size at which sexual maturity was achieved. Data was collected both on board vessels during fishing, and at fishing ports as fishermen landed their catch. The information recorded included such things as location of fishing activity, type of traps used, size of crabs caught, claw height,
and shell condition.

Bluefin Tuna

The 2003 bluefin tuna season was the third year of the revised management plan highlighted with higher ‘caps’ per fleet sector. The plan is based on fleet sector caps which range from 105 to 180 metric tonnes per fleet. Prince Edward Island received a cap of 180 metric tonnes. The season opened on July 15 and lasted until September 5, when Prince Edward Island landed 179.9 mt. Thirteen Island ports experienced landings this year with a total of 368 tuna landed. North Lake landed 143 fish, North Rustico landed 60 fish, and Tignish landed 52 fish. The Canadian inshore quota of 545 mt was caught
by September 6. There are 760 bluefin tuna licence holders in Atlantic Canada, with Prince Edward Island holding 360 licences.

A total inshore quota of 545 metric tonnes was announce in July. The season opened July 15, and the ex-sector fishery began August 5. Twenty-two Prince Edward Island fishers participated in the ex-sector fishery off southwest Nova Scotia. In total, 174 tuna were caught in the ex-sector fishery.

Island fishers landed 641 tuna throughout Atlantic Canada, for a total weight of 179.99 metric tonnes. There were 23.34 metric tonnes landed in southwest Nova Scotia, 1.78 metric tonnes in 4Wd (Canso), and 154.88 metric tonnes in the Gulf region.

The Prince Edward Island Tuna Working Group, made up of tuna fishers, and provincial and federal government representatives, continued to work for a fair system at the annual Atlantic Large Pelagics Advisory Committee meetings.

On November 24, the federal fisheries minister announced that fleet quotas were developed and would be implemented in the 2004 season. Prince Edward Island’s fleet share was set at 30.52 percent. Using an inshore quota of 565 mt, this would cap our fleet at 172 mt. Further negotiations are ongoing to increase this quota.

Scallop Fishery

In 2003, Prince Edward Island reported scallop landings of 88,412 pounds, up 5 percent from 2002. The value of the landings were approximately $530,000.

In Area 22 (western Northumberland Strait), the season began on May 5 and ended June 7. Sunday fishing was not permitted and daily hours of operation were from 6 am to 6 pm. Less than 60 fishers were active in this fishery. Meat counts were set at 44 per 500 grams to enhance conservation.

The scallop season for the north side of (Scallop Fishing Area 23) began July 7, closed September 6, reopened November 10, and ended December 7. There are only a few active scallop fishers each year in Area 23. The Eastern Northumberland Strait fishery (Area 24) opened October 27 and closed December 13. Scallop prices were steady, averaging $6.00/lb. The maximum meat count allowed in Area 24 was 52 per 500 grams.

A buffer zone is in place in Area 24 to protect lobster habitat along the coastlines of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia fishermen are requesting more areas to be protected.



The Herring Management Plan was announced in mid-April. For 2003, the spring quota was set at 11,000 mt, up from last year’s TAC of 8,000 mt for the southern Gulf’s Area 16 fishery. Western fishers landed 1,459 mt in Area 16 C/E. Early landings were soft in western Prince Edward Island yet strong on the New Brunswick side. Prices varied from 10-30 cents /lb depending upon supply and demand.

Later in May, prices jumped from 10-16 cents/lb to 35-45 cents a pound by early June when demand for lobster bait exceed supply. The bait situation improved in June with the opening of the mackerel fishery and the arrival of the gaspereaux.


The 4T fall quota was set at 62,000 mt, up from 51,500 metric tonnes in 2002. The western Prince Edward Island fishery (Herring Fishing Area 16 C/E) began August 31 with a quota of 7,439 mt shared with southeast New Brunswick. There were over 40 fishers active in the western roe fishery. The fishery finished on September 16. Final landings were 7,630 mt, with Prince Edward Island fishers landing 1,730 mt (23 percent) at Island ports. John Rochford, from Alberton, assisted in collecting acoustic data to help determine the size of the herring stock.

Eastern Fall Herring

The HFA 16G area (Fishermen’s Bank area) had a split quota with 800 mt allocated for north-side fishers from Covehead to North Lake that began on July 20th. Only 276 mt was landed due to the scarcity of herring. The remainder was rolled into the bulk of the quota (6,889 mt) which began on August 24th for Fishermen’s Bank area. The fishery closed on Sept 15th, but re-opened on the 17th (after requests from industry) to catch the remaining quota. Final landings totaled 8,699 mt.

Both major fishing areas off Prince Edward Island had relatively successful fall seasons with most vessels reaching their daily quotas of 15,000 lbs in the east and 20,000 lbs in the west.

During the fall fishery in eastern Prince Edward Island, two fishers were engaged in collecting acoustic data to record the size and number of herring schools. The department assisted in this project by providing funding for this work. It will provide information for the ongoing study by Fisheries and Oceans to fully understand the components of the herring stock.

Division personnel participated in industry meetings held throughout the fall and winter. A Regional Advisory Process session was held in late March in Moncton for science and industry to peer review the latest data on the resource and to help develop the Stock Status Report for 4T herring.

Seiner Fleet

Again this year in late October, the New Brunswick seiner fleet arrived to fish a portion of their quota off northeast Prince Edward Island and use the Souris wharf facilities to unload their catch and truck it back to northern New Brunswick. They were met with a series of protests which led to a court injunction and 14 fishers arrested. The seiners caught over 5,770 mt off Prince Edward Island in the fall. Their total landings were 13,911 mt. for the fall season. Allister Surette was contracted by Fisheries and Oceans on a fact-finding mission to record and report the issues and concerns between the inshore fishers and the seiners. The department continued its demand to reinstate the 1983 exclusion zone coordinates to protect the local stocks and habitat.


The Irish moss season began in early June. There was no directed Furcellaria fishery. There was an increase in effort this year owing in part to a renewed demand for Chondrus.

Fisheries, Aquaculture and Environment, in conjunction with the Development and Technology, jointly funded a research project on the status and health of the local marine plant beds. Three local people were hired to conduct basic studies on the various species content and to determine fishery effort.

Price remained the same in 2003 as in 2002 and landings were estimated to be near 9,000 mt.


In late April, Fisheries and Oceans announced another moratorium on 4T and 4RS Gulf cod stocks. The Fishery Resource Conservation Council (FRCC) recommended to continue the same measures as in 2002, but there were too many negative signs to continue a directed fishery. Recent scientific assessments determined that the stocks were at historically low levels and showed no signs of imminent recovery despite a decade of restrictive measures.

The only groundfish fisheries occurring on the Island were a flatfish fishery and the Fisheries and Oceans’s sentinel study. There was a fixed gear, tangle-net fishery for blackbacks in the spring and another tangle net fishery in the east off Fishermen’s Bank after the fall herring fishery closed. As well, some mobile gear vessels directed for blackbacks and plaice in eastern Prince Edward Island in the fall.

Charter boat fishers were not initially supportive of the cod moratorium. A compromise was reached that enabled charter vessel operators to release any cod caught while directing for mackerel, squid or sculpins. Approximately half of the 33 charter boats registered to get the special licence conditions for catch and release.


The silverside fishery opened October 1. Early prices were quoted at 40 cents per pound for box-net fish. This price was greatly different from the year before when the first week’s initial offer was 18 cents per pound. Many fishers, through their processor, stored product for 2004 lobster bait. This is a relatively new bait product with mixed reviews by the industry.

The Fisheries and Oceans has had some success with the annual berthing issue. As more fishers become active in this late fall fishery, the ideal fishing locations are more in demand. This issue is more common in eastern Prince Edward Island than in the west.

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