ARCHIVED - 2000 - 2004 - Integrated Fisheries Management Plan - Silversides - Prince Edward Island (Inclusive)

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Atlantic silverside (Menidia menidia)

Atlantic silverside (Menidia menidia)

Table of Content



1. Participants
2. Location of the Fishery
3. Timeframe of Fishery
4. Landings/Value/Markets
5. Consultative Process
6. Management Styles


1. Biology, Environment, Habitat
2. Species Interactions
3. Assessment
4. Research
5. Prospects for 2000-2004


1. Conservation/Sustainability
2. International Considerations
3. Domestic Considerations


1. Fishing Seasons
2. Control and Monitoring of Fishing Activities
3. Quota Allocations
4. Other Relevant Elements

1. Licensing
2. Key Legislation


1. Overview
2. Main Program Activities
3. Fishery Patrol Vessels
4. Air Surveillance
5. Enforcement Issues and Strategies

Management Plan Evaluation Criteria

Conservation & Protection Plan Evaluation Criteria

Consultative Group

DFO Roles and Responsibilities

Press Release

Species Profile


This Integrated Fisheries Management plan is a five-year management plan, which covers the 2000-2004 Silverside fishery for the coastal and inland waters of Prince Edward Island.

Note: This plan is intended to operate in conjunction with an annual Silverside harvesting plan in which specific harvesting guidelines such as fishing areas, seasons, bag limits, etc. may be adjusted according to conservation requirements.


The commercial Silverside fishery on Prince Edward Island dates back to the early 1970's and is the only commercial Silverside fishery in Canada. Silversides are fished in the tidal ponds, rivers, bays and estuaries all around the Island. Trap/box net is the only authorized gear type used to fish silversides and fishers normally use dories 12 to 14 feet in length to fish these nets. The following is a brief description of a trap/box net:

Box/Trap Net: is a net set so as to enclose an area of water into which fish are guided through an opening or openings by one or more leaders. These nets are usually set perpendicular to the shoreline and as the smelt arrive at the leader they follow it and swim though the open doors into a box shaped trap. Once inside the trap, the Silversides swim in circles trying to avoid the leader and fail to locate the open doors. Fishers close the doors and remove the silversides from the box shaped enclosure.

1.1 Participants

There is 98 licenced Silverside fishers on Prince Edward Island. The majority of these fishers reside in Prince County in the Alberton and Tignish areas.

There is no aboriginal participation in the Silverside fishery and there is also no recreational fishery.

1.2 Location of the Fishery

The Silverside fishery in Prince Edward Island is undertaken in the tidal ponds, rivers, bays and estuaries throughout the province. The highest concentration of fishing occurs in the Eastern part of the Island in Kings County.

1.3 Timeframe of Fishery

The open season for Silversides is from October 1 to December 31 and the main concentration of fishing effort occurs from October 1 to mid November.

1.4 Landings/Value/Markets

1989 32,914 10,864
1990 81,853 27,068
1991 117,760 51,820
1992 46,385 17,539
1993 82,748 29,088
1994 543,078 207,621
1995 222,635 72,108
1996 151,088 43,480
1997 237,704 102,841
1998 231,449 102,090
1999 558,203 385,824

*Note that 1999 is preliminary and subject to change.

The majority of Silversides caught on Prince Edward Island are sold in a frozen state and shipped to markets in the U.S.A. There are three processing plants that freeze and ship Silversides on Prince Edward Island.

1.5 Consultative Process

Consultations with clients are carried out in a number of ways using both formal and informal processes. The silverside fishery is covered under the Prince Edward Island Estuarine Advisory Committee. The PEI Estuarine Committee is chaired by Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans and only meets as issues come up which needs industry feed-back (at least once per year). Representation is listed below:

Prince Edward Island Estuarine Advisory Committee

  1. Commercial Silverside fishers
  2. Members of Aboriginal Communities
  3. Provincial Fisheries
  4. PEI Processors Association
  5. DFO Resource Management, Conservation and Protection and Science Branch

1.6 Management Styles

The Silverside fishery on Prince Edward Island is managed by effort controls. The most significant of these are the following;

  1. Seasons
  2. Limiting the number of licences
  3. Limiting the number of nets per fisher


2.1 Biology, Environment, Habitat

The Atlantic Silverside is a small schooling fish that ranges from the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence to Florida. Silversides spawn in the early summer and fish from each summer's spawning form the bulk of the catch in the following fall. The life cycle is brief and only a very small proportion of silversides reach the age of two years. The species is encountered mostly near shorelines, especially in estuaries and coastal ponds, but it may also undergo offshore migrations in winter.

2.2. Species Interactions

Silversides are consumed by a wide variety of predators, including birds, seals, and groundfish. Seals commonly prey on silversides near or in traps, which affects commercial catches. Silversides frequently school with three-spined sticklebacks (pinfish), and undesired stickleback bycatch may make Silversides catches un-sellable.

2.3 Assessment

Silversides are not subject to formal scientific assessment. Because of the species' short life cycle, stock size fluctuates greatly among years. Landings are taken as a reflection of stock status, although landings are also influenced by market demand.

2.4 Research

No research on Silversides is presently being conducted, nor is any planned.

2.5 Prospects for 2000-2004

Silverside landings, presumed to reflect stock size, have fluctuated with no overall trend since the 1970s. It is presumed that they will continue to do so. Available biological data on PEI Silversides are presented in:

Cairns, D.K. 1996. An update on the Atlantic Silverside fishery of Prince Edward Island, 1995. DFO Atl. Fish. Res. Doc. 96/116. 9 pp.

Cairns, D.K. 1997. A biological review of commercial diadromous fishes of Prince Edward Island. Can. Stock Assess. Sec. Res. Doc. 97/74. 53 pp.


Long term objectives for the Prince Edward Island silverside fishery include the following:

  • To ensure the conservation of Silverside stocks;
  • To ensure basic needs of aboriginal peoples for food, social and ceremonial purposes are met as a priority after conservation requirements through the development of AFS agreements;
  • Match fishing effort with available resources in the commercial fishery;
  • Improve scientific information base on Silversides;
  • Improve statistical data collection on Silverside landings and fishing effort.


4.1 Conservation/Sustainability

The management objectives for the smelt fisheries in Prince Edward Island are as follows:

  • To promote and ensure the conservation and protection of Silversides and their habitat;
  • To ensure optimal use by commercial interests both now and for the future generations;
  • To improve data collection on fishing effort and landings.

4.2 International Considerations

There are no international considerations with respect to the management of Silverside stocks in the Prince Edward Island area, as they do not migrate outside of our local coastal region.

4.3 Domestic Considerations

  1. Aboriginal Fishery

    To work together to ensure that aboriginal communities have first access to the Silverside fishery after conservation requirements are met. Prince Edward Island hosts two Aboriginal First Nations; Lennox Island First Nation on Lennox Island and Abegweit First Nation located in Rocky Point, Scotchfort and Morell Rear and one Aboriginal umbrella organization the Native Council of PEI located in Charlottetown.

  2. Recreational Fishery

    There is no recreational Silverside fishery on Prince Edward Island.

  3. Commercial

    The following are the objectives for commercial fisheries:
    • To optimize the use of a limited resource while achieving profitability and sustainability;
    • Ensure fishing effort is evenly distributed;
    • Maintain the cap on the number of licences and reduce through attrition;
    • Improve data collection on fishing effort and landings throughout the area.

  4. Exploratory/Experimental

    There is no exploratory/experimental Silverside fishery on Prince Edward Island.


Issue: Aboriginal Access to the Commercial Fishery The aboriginal community does not have any commercial Silverside licences.
Utilize existing programs under the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy to obtain commercial licences for the aboriginal community.

Issue: Berths for Silverside Trap/box Nets
Fishers in the Eastern part of Prince Edward Island have traditionally been assigned berths for their Silverside nets while fishers in the Western part of Prince Edward Island have operated on a first come basis for net berths. This causes gear conflict issues when fishers from the Western part of the province decide to fish in the Eastern part of the province in areas where berths have already been assigned.
Develop a uniform approach to berths for the entire province by meeting with fishers and Conservation and Protection personnel to decide if a total berthage system or a first come, first serve access to berths would be the best approach.


6.1 Fishing Seasons

The fishing season for Silversides using trap/box nets is from October 1 to December 31.

6.2 Control and Monitoring of Fishing Activities

This fishery is controlled and monitored by fishery officers in vehicles, small launches, ATV's and on foot patrols. Fishing gear and licences are checked to ensure that only licensed fishers partake in the fishery.

6.3 Quota Allocations

There is no quota assigned to the Silverside fishery as it is managed by effort controls (i.e. season, #of licences, etc.)

6.4 Other Relevant Elements

a) Licensing

All individuals participating in the Silverside fishery must be registered as commercial fishers. Silverside fishing licences must be renewed on an annual basis. Fishers can combine licences up to the maximum allowable amount per gear type. The maximum amount for trap/box nets is 2 nets.

b) Key Legislation

Fisheries Act, Fishery (General) Regulations, Maritime Provinces Fishery Regulations and the Aboriginal Communal Fishing Licences Regulations.


7.1 Overview

Conservation and Protection are tasked with ensuring compliance of numerous Silverside fishers in a commercial fishery on Prince Edward Island.

The commercial fishery is limited to trap/box nets set in tidal waters.

Market conditions seem to dictate activity in this fishery.

7.2 Main Program Activities

The main activity in this fishery involves fishery officers conducting patrols on land and at sea to monitor license compliance, seasonal closures, and other regulatory compliance's, such as net distances, channel obstruction, and net identification.

7.3 Fishery Patrol Vessels

Fishery Officers conduct patrols using small launches, ATV's, motor vehicles and on foot to ensure compliance of above activities.

7.4 Air Surveillance

No directed flights dedicated to Silverside fishery but any opportunity to monitor this fishery in conjunction with other directed flights is an asset.

7.5 Enforcement Issues and Strategies

  • Licence requirements
  • Personal registrations
  • Seasons
  • Gear markings (tags)
  • Gear spacing
  • Gear mesh size
  • Channel obstruction
  • One-third of river open
  • Berth disputes
  • Illegal by-catch
  • Sub-operator violations
  • Dockside checks
  • At sea patrols
  • License checks
  • Vehicle patrols
  • Stake-outs
  • Gear checks
  • Net distance measurements
  • Species inspections
  • Public information (Crimestoppers)
  • Industry/consultation committees
  • Meetings
  • Licensing Center information


Management Plan Evaluation Criteria

  • Feedback from industry
  • Timeliness of decision making
  • Communications to industry
  • Inter-governmental relations
  • Food fishery requirements met
  • In-season adjustment
  • Overall adherence to plans


Conservation & Protection Plan Evaluation Criteria

  • Number of License checks
  • Number of dockside checks
  • Number of species inspections
  • Number of identified berths
  • Number of investigations
  • Number of complaints
  • Number of stake-outs
  • Number of violations
  • Number of warnings
  • Number of gear inspections
  • Number of seizures
  • Number of prosecutions
  • Number of dedicated patrols


Consultative Group

Terms of Reference for Prince Edward Island Working Groups

  • To provide a format for input into management policies by users of resource and Federal and Provincial Government agencies;
  • To review and advise DFO fishery managers on policies and concerns related to the fishery resource;
  • To promote better management of the fisheries resource in inland and coastal waters of Prince Edward Island;
  • To represent Prince Edward Island area fisheries, provide advice and make recommendations to advisory committees at the Regional, Inter-regional and National levels through active representative membership on those committees;
  • To improve communications between users and government agencies;
  • Working groups will act as advisory bodies to DFO fishery managers with recommendations delivered by consensus rather than by vote.


DFO Roles and Responsibilities

Resource Management

  • Takes the lead in bringing the various DFO sectors and elements of the management plan together to develop the management options;
  • Responsible for consultations with industry and provinces;
  • Responsible for managing pre, in, post-season processes.


  • Provides the stock forecast for the upcoming season;
  • Indicates any conservation concerns;
  • Provides advice on the appropriateness of management options to address conservation concerns;
  • Specifies what, if any, data requirements they need to have to facilitate in-season adjustments and post-season evaluations.

Aboriginal Affairs

  • Provides advice regarding DFO’s relationship with aboriginal people; food, social and ceremonial fishing; consultations; DFO’s policies and programs.

Conservation and Protection

  • Identifies enforcement problems to be addressed in the development of the management plan;
  • Suggests specific enforcement measures to address enforcement issues.


  • Provides input on international obligations or concerns;
  • Responsible for making regulatory changes required in support of management plan.


  • Provides advice on developing appropriate strategies for communicating management plan.
Departmental Contacts
NameGroupsTel. NumberFax NumberE-mail Address
Hank Scarth Area Director 902-566-7810 902-566-7848
Jim Jenkins Chief, Resource Management 902-566-7815 902-566-7848
Peter Zahrndt Chief, Conservation & Protection 902-566-7793 902-566-7848
David Cairns Research Scientist 902-566-7825 902-566-7848



Press Release


Species Profile

Atlantic silverside (Menidia menidia)
Common names: silverside, capelin.

Atlantic silverside (Menidia menidia)

1.1 Distribution

  • The Atlantic silverside is found along the Atlantic coast from Florida to the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. Its habitat includes river estuaries, barachois ponds, and open salt water.

1.2 Physical Characteristics

  • The Atlantic silverside is a small shiny fish with a silver stripe running along its flanks.
  • Silverside is smaller than capelin, which only occasionally occur in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. The silverside's habit of forming dense schools in shallow water may be the reason that some erroneously call it "capelin."
  • Silversides in the fall of their first year of life measure about 9.5 - 10 cm fork lengths. Silversides in the fall of their second year of life measure about 10 - 10.5 cm fork length.

1.3 Facts on silversides

  • Silversides have the shortest lifespan of any commercial fish species on PEI.
  • The great majority of silversides taken in the commercial fishery are only about five months old.

1.4 Fishing Facts

  • Silversides are commonly used as food for exotic birds in zoos.
  • Prince Edward Island is the only province in Canada where there is a commercial silverside fishery.
  • PEI accounts for two thirds of the world landings of silversides.
  • Silverside catches often include sticklebacks (pinfish), which are not acceptable in the marketplace. The presence of stickleback bycatch has a dampening effect on silverside fishing effort.
  • The silverside fishery on PEI is concentrated in the eastern end of the province, where the modern commercial fishery began in the 1970s.

1.5 Natural History

  • Silversides enter estuaries, marshes, and creeks in spring to spawn. In PEI, spawning occurs in June.
  • Eggs are about 1 mm in diameter. They stick to vegetation for about 10 days, whereupon they hatch.
  • At least in southern areas, determination of sex is influenced by water temperature. Silversides thus differ from most other fish, whose sex is determined by genetics.
  • Because they are small and locally abundant, silversides are a food source for many species of fish, birds, and marine mammals.