Integrated Fisheries Management Plan

Lobster in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence



Fisheries Issues

Fishing Effort

The present landings are high compared to long-term historical levels. It is likely that the high landings are due in part to an increase in biomass and increased fishing power (large vessels, large engines, better technology, etc.). Given the importance of this fishery and that it is dependent on lobsters just reaching legal size (a recruitment fishery), the resource and the fishery are vulnerable. While fishing effort (e.g. number of fish harvesters, number of traps, number of fishing days, etc.) has been reduced recently, more needs to be done to avoid a possible decline in the resource due to a recruitment failure.

Concentration/Movement of Fishing Effort

Because the fishery is undertaken on a competitive basis, fish harvesters are very sensitive and possessive of established historical fishing areas within an LFA. As new fish harvesters enter the fishery, combined with voluntary licence retirement programs which permanently remove individuals from the fishery, there are increased demands that DFO implement measures to define on smaller spatial scales where fish harvesters can fish within an LFA.

Fisheries Data

Landings data are currently provided by the commercial buyers of the resource and do not include key information such as private sales by fish harvesters, level of fishing effort and distribution of effort. The lobster fishery is the only key fishery where fish harvesters do not provide this type of information nor is it monitored by an independent dockside monitoring program. However, it is anticipated that a comprehensive electronic data collection system for reporting landings and fishing effort will be in place in the near future.

Localized Decreases in Landings

In the central Northumberland Strait (southern portion of LFA25 and western portion of LFA26A), landings have decreased dramatically compared to other areas and the economic viability of many fishing enterprises is seriously threatened.


Although C&P places a very high priority on monitoring the lobster fishery, industry stakeholder representatives frequently state that there are not enough resources dedicated by DFO to monitor the fishery and ensure enforcement of the management measures thereby raising concerns for the ongoing conservation and protection of the resource.

Impacts of Rock Crab Harvesting

Rock crab is a significant prey of lobster. Concern has been expressed about the impact of the directed rock crab fishery and the by-catch fishery operating during the lobster fishery of this important food source for lobster.

Availability of Bait

The lobster fishery depends upon access to large amounts of bait. The spring lobster fishery also competes for bait needed for the snow crab fishery. The higher cost of bait associated with declines in the availability from traditional sources (herring and mackerel) has resulted in fishing pressure on other species including silverside, cunners, sticklebacks, small flatfish and rock crab.

Depleted Species Concerns

Species at Risk Act (SARA)

Canada developed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and a number of complementary programs to promote recovery and protection of species considered to be extirpated, endangered, threatened, or of special concern. The protection and recovery of species at risk involves the development and implementation of species-specific recovery strategies, action plans and management plans. Lobster has not been assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and is not considered to be at risk by DFO.

Gulf Region waters are at the southern extent of the distribution of wolfish species presently listed under the SARA. The potential for interaction of the lobster fishery and wolfish is considered negligible to none. The distribution of leatherback sea turtles sometimes overlaps with areas of fishing activity, with turtles occasionally becoming entangled with anchor lines of fixed gear but there have been no reports of sea turtle mortality as a result of the inshore lobster fishery. Current levels of impact from the inshore lobster fishery on these SARA-listed species are not thought to jeopardize survival or recovery for these species.

All lobster licence holders are required, through conditions of licence, to respect protection measures for species at risk and to submit to DFO a SARA logbook at the end of each fishing season for all their fishing trips. The logbook requires harvesters to report various information should they encounter species at risk. More information regarding aquatic species at risk can be found at the Aquatic Species at Risk website.

Oceans and Habitat Considerations

Work continues to develop a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as a tool to support the ecosystem approach and to support sustainable fisheries. MPAs are not necessarily “no take” zones; rather they are developed and implemented to support sustainable fisheries management. The first step in developing new MPAs requires the identification of Areas of Interest (AOI) which are identified by their ecological and biological importance and are deemed to be under some level of threat from human activity.

The lobster traps used in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence lobster fishery are not believed to have any significant detrimental impact on the fish habitat.

The use of mobile bottom gear may have a detrimental impact on some types of lobster habitat. Consequently, several “no-dragging” buffer zones have been implemented in the scallop fishery.

Gear Impacts

There is no known impact of lobster gear on habitat. Mortality of by-catch of other species in traps is minimal to nil. Ghost fishing can occur when gear is lost at sea and not retrieved but is limited by the use of biodegradable panels on traps. Salvage operations in some areas are undertaken annually to retrieve lost and illegal traps remaining after the fishing season.

International Issues

The European Union (EU) has introduced regulations effective January 2010 that require Canadian fish and seafood products to have a government validated catch certificate attesting that the product is not from an Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishery. More information can be found on the Fisheries Renewal website under Tracking & Traceability.

There are growing legal and market driven demands in key fish importing countries for assurances that fisheries are managed sustainably and in environmentally responsible ways. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has developed standards for sustainable fishing and seafood traceability that are recognized globally. As of 2013, the lobster fisheries in Iles de la Madeleine and Maine are MSC certified. Several areas in the Southern Gulf of Saint Lawrence are preparing for MSC certification.