Integrated Fisheries Management Plan

Lobster in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence



Program Description

The Conservation and Protection program promotes and maintains compliance with legislation, regulations and management measures implemented to achieve the conservation and sustainable use of Canada’s aquatic resources, and the protection of species at risk, fish habitat and oceans.

The program is delivered through a balanced regulatory management and enforcement approach including:

  • promotion of compliance through education and shared stewardship;
  • monitoring, control and surveillance activities;
  • management of major cases / special investigations in relation to complex compliance issues; and
  • compliance and enforcement program capacity.

Program Delivery

Compliance in the lobster fishery is achieved through the application of the various acts and regulations including amongst others the Fisheries Act, the Fishery (General) Regulations and the Atlantic Fishery Regulations by Fishery Officers, as well as any variation orders made pursuant to the regulations.

The following offers a general description of compliance activities carried out by the Conservation & Protection (C&P) division of DFO in the lobster fishery.

  • Land-based Fishery Officers conduct:
    • inspection of catches to ensure compliance
    • inspection of fishing gear
    • licence checks
    • overt and covert patrols to ensure compliance during both open and closed seasons
  • During sea patrols, Fishery Officers conduct vessel inspections to check lobster gear and catch. Fishery officers also do licence verifications during sea patrols.
  • C&P Detachment Supervisors prepare a work plan each year in which they allocate human, material and fiscal resources and establish priorities for the lobster fishery (note: enforcement of the lobster fishery is one of the priorities in the areas where this fishery is concentrated).
  • C&P employees assist in making recommendations and/or proposing solutions to issues that arise during the fishing season.
  • Routine aerial patrols are conducted in the areas covered by this plan. This is a valuable means of ensuring compliance with seasonal and area closures as well as investigating reports of illegal activity


Shared stewardship and education are encouraged through emphasis on the importance of C&P communication with the community at large including:

  • Presentations to client/stakeholder groups, Aboriginal organizations, including school visits or community programs.
  • Informal interactions with all parties involved in the fishery on the wharf, during patrols or in the community to promote conservation.
  • Participation of C&P Supervisors in enforcement advisory meetings with industry to determine expectations in relation to monitoring, control and surveillance activities. Fishery Officers try to match these expectations with available resources and incorporate this in their yearly planning profile.
  • Participation of C&P personnel in Enforcement Round Tables in order to establish an ongoing relationship and partnership with stakeholder representatives from all sectors of the communities through out the Gulf Region interested in the conservation and protection of the marine resources and habitat.
  • Engagement of C&P in internal DFO consultation with the Resource Management division and other DFO branches through post season analysis and other committees to assess the effectiveness of enforcement activities and to develop recommendations for the upcoming season.
  • Informal interactions with Aboriginal groups on the wharfs, during patrols or in the community to promote conservation.
  • Participation of C&P personnel (liaison officer) during consultations and annual meetings organized by the Aboriginal Fisheries division and/or the Area Aboriginal Coordinators with Aboriginal Organizations.

Compliance Performance

In addition to other tasks, Fishery Officers are responsible for enforcing many commercial, recreational and Aboriginal fisheries. For the years 2000 to 2011, enforcement of the lobster fishery in the Gulf Region accounted for an average of approximately 25% of Fishery Officers’ time, which is the equivalent of an average of approximately 22,500 hours/year. However, during the lobster fishing seasons, the vast majority of a Fishery Officer’s day is spent on various activities related to monitoring this fishery. C&P may not always be able to sustain this effort in the face of conservation risks elsewhere.

The compliance performance may be measured by a number of indicators, including:

  • Total Fishery Officers hours
  • Total hours of patrols
  • Number of vessels checked
  • Number of vehicles checked
  • Number of persons checked
  • Number of gear checked
  • Number of sites checked
  • Number of violations / warnings
  • Number of resulting charges
  • Compliance with prohibitions
  • Compliance with licence conditions

Current Compliance Issues

Although some C&P statistics indicate relatively frequent infractions and convictions with high fine levels, this is not consistent throughout the Region and it is not an adequate deterrent. While C&P is prepared to seek higher impact penalties through targeted enforcement, court action is still costly in terms of officer time and money. Industry participants in this fishery have a huge role to play in achieving better compliance through closer cooperation with C&P as part of an effort to lower the tolerance of illegal activity.

Compliance Strategy

C&P has developed a Compliance and Enforcement Strategy that will provide front line Fishery Officers with the necessary guidance and direction. It will also serve as a reference in establishing operational priorities in the lobster fishery.

Priorities will be to focus on management measures that are conservation-related. Efforts and energies will includes activities such as: conducting at sea and dockside inspections, inspection of processing plants, inspections of vehicles transporting lobsters from province to province, vehicles transporting lobsters outside the country. Other compliance and enforcement activities will include grappling operations, overt and covert operations in support of detecting illegal activities associated with berried lobsters, undersize lobsters, window lobsters, illegal fishing gear, fishing in closed areas, escape mechanisms, hoop size, etc.

In support of further developing an intelligence-based approach, efforts will be maintained towards increasing intelligence gathering and information sharing capacity. A close watch will also be maintained on the development of new technology; new approaches in order to provide front line Fishery Officers the opportunity to broaden their knowledge and increase their skills. This approach will also provide an opportunity to expand the inventory of specialized tools.