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Fishermen fly to Ottawa to pressure feds as demonstrations continue in Digby

Jody Smith has been demonstrating with other lobster fishermen in Digby in front of the DFO office for more enforcement on illegal lobster fishing during summer months.
Jody Smith has been demonstrating with other lobster fishermen in Digby in front of the DFO office for more enforcement on illegal lobster fishing during summer months.

DIGBY, NS – Demonstrations continued September 18 in Digby as two local fishermen flew to Ottawa to meet directly with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

A meeting between several local DFO officials and fishermen happened September 15, but Jody Smith, acting spokesman for the demonstration, said they still haven’t heard much at all.

Smith and the other men demonstrating, which now include fishermen from Long Island and Brier Island, are hoping Matthew Theriault and Kevin Ross’ appointment in the capital brings results.

“We’re hoping to get answers from that. We’ve got to shut this bay down or something – we need DFO to start doing their job,” says Smith.

 

Meetings with local DFO execs

A meeting between local DFO executives and several fishermen was held in Digby September 15.

DFO Area Director David Whorley didn’t attend the meeting, but confirmed the Area Chief of Enforcement, the Head of Conservation and Enforcement and the Regional Director attended.

Without specifying what was discussed, Whorley said the meeting was a productive one.

The department is not issuing further comments.

Smith couldn’t speak to what the fishermen at the meeting learned, but reinforced his hopes the Ottawa meeting will bring forth results.

 

Taking action themselves

As the demonstration is set to continue, the fishermen say they’re getting ready to “take matters into their own hands.”

Thousands of lobster carcasses, including ones under legal harvesting size and some females – both of which are illegal to harvest commercially – that were harvested offseason lie dumped in several locations in and around Weymouth.

“Obviously we hope it doesn’t come to that point, but yes, we are definitely willing to take action ourselves if we don’t get answers,” says Smith.

He says this is the worst summer of poaching he’s ever seen in his ten years of fishing on his own. While he’s seen the problem rise and fall in the past, he worries it will grow again next year if unchecked.

“Last summer we knew of maybe eight boats on the water, doing this. This summer, we estimate it’s 20. Will it be 40 next summer?” he wonders.

 

A vulnerable stock during summer months

Smith confirmed lobster carcasses dumped in piles in Weymouth are from this summer, and were not caught and stored in lobster pounds before the season ended.

“I saw many lobsters with claws crushed from their bands, showing their shells were still too soft and the liner inside their shells showing they were moulting,” he says.

“It’s sick. That is not enforcement.”

There is still no confirmed link between these lobster piles and the demonstrations. DFO says its investigation is ongoing.

Smith said proper enforcement to him would be DFO closing down the entire bay area during the summer season, when lobsters are most vulnerable due to moulting and breeding.

“There’s a reason we don’t fish this time of year. This area is a nursery, and summer fishing threatens it,” he says.

“Someone has to protect this fishery. If DFO won’t do it, who will? We will.”

 

See also: Thousands of lobsters found dumped as demonstrations continue in Digby

Fishermen to demonstrate for proper DFO enforcement again Sept. 15 in Digby

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