Guest Column: New Canadian gear marking requirements in place

All fisheries in the Gulf of St. Lawrence are a little more colorful these days as Canadian fishermen are adding colored twine to all vertical lines for 2020 and future fishing seasons. This effort is to provide additional data on North Atlantic right whale entanglements. It takes place in addition to significant area fishery closures that are in effect until November 15, 2020.

Ian MacPherson is the executive director of the Prince Edward Island Fishermen’s Association

Each color added to the twine represents either an area or species fished. The goal is to gain a better understanding of where whales are getting entangled and in what gear type. The information will assist the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in making decisions related to the prevention of whale entanglements.

Every vertical line in the water is required to have a series of colored twine repeated three times. This includes not only fishing lines, but any vertical line in the water, even if for scientific purposes.

The first marking is within 6.6 feet from the buoy, the third marking is within 6.6 feet from the trap and the middle marking or second mark is dependent on the length of the vertical line. If the vertical line is less than 98.4 feet the second marker must be more than 9 feet 8 inches away from both the buoy and the trap.
If the vertical line is greater than 98.4 feet the middle marker must be more than 39 feet 4 inches from the buoy and trap. This ensures the second marking is in the middle section of the rope.

All vertical lines in the Gulf region will have a 6-inch piece of blue twine, representing the Gulf region. The Maritimes region color is black; Newfoundland is red; Quebec is green. The color identifying species is also 6 inches and it is woven into the vertical line with the blue twine. For lobster, the species color is yellow, for rock crab the species color is blue, for small pelagic the species color is grey.

The majority of fisheries in the Gulf region need only two colors, one for region and one for species, but lobstermen requested a better break down by location. Therefore, vertical lobster lines have a third color which follows the region and species colors. This third color represents the Lobster Fishing Area (LFA) and is also 6 inches in length.

A few examples:
>LFA 24: blue (Gulf region) and yellow (lobster) twine together, followed by green (LFA 24) twine
>Rock crab fishery: two pieces of blue twine together (Gulf region and rock crab)
>Mackerel fishery: blue (Gulf region) and grey (small pelagic) twine together.

Gulf of St. Lawrence fishermen were irritated because they understood these marking changes were coming and asked DFO for the color patterns before the end of the prior season. As they were putting gear away last year would have been the proper time to put the twine in the lines. But DFO had not standardized information so there were different interpretations on how the twine was to be installed. Some methods were much more time-consuming than others so for a period of time fishermen were frustrated. The focus this season, however, is on implementation of the twine and any required adjustments can be made in the off season.

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