Blue Line

Disputes among fishermen prompt temporary closure of baby eel fishery

May 8, 2020  By The Canadian Press

FREDERICTON — The lucrative baby eel fishery in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick has been temporarily shut down because of disputes between fishermen and the possibility of overfishing.

Fisheries and Oceans Minister Bernadette Jordan issued a ministerial order late last month putting a 45-day hold on fishing for eels less than 10 centimetres in length.

The order, dated April 27, states that an unexpected rise of people fishing for eels outside the commercial fishery created the chance of exceeding catch limits.

It also notes there were disputes between fishermen that required DFO officials and police to intervene.


“Conflict on the water between harvesters has escalated to threats of violence and the safety of the harvesters is at risk, which constitutes a threat to the proper management and control of the fishery,” the order states.

A spokesperson for DFO added that fishery officers had responded to disputes between harvesters “in locations across the Maritimes Region.”

Genna Carey, of the Canadian Committee for a Sustainable Eel Fishery, issued a statement Thursday saying the order followed disputes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous harvesters.

She said the closure has put about 140 licensed fishermen and women out of work.

“We implore the government of Canada and the chosen representatives of the recognized First Nation peoples in the Maritime region, to convene negotiations immediately to address the issues,” she wrote.

Baby eels, or elvers, are sold to fish farms in Asia where they are grown to market size.

Prices hit a high of more than $2,000 U.S. per pound in 2018, but are significantly lower this year because of the worldwide slowdown in the seafood industry as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“To ensure the conservation of the species, it is imperative that fishing of elvers stop immediately in order for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to review the management and conservation measures for this fishery,” the ministerial order states.

Department officials did not release specifics details of the conflicts between fishermen, but said the investigation continues.

“Compliance monitoring and enforcement activities are ongoing. No charges have been laid at this time,” Debbie Buott-Matheson, a spokesperson for the department, said in an email.

“As a matter of course, potential charges in any fishery are referred through the Public Prosecution Services of Canada and become public record, once laid,” she wrote.

– Kevin Bissett

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 7, 2020.

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2020

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