Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dangers aplenty on the fishing grounds

The practice of crabbers leaving their gear out on the fishing grounds of Hecate Strait is registering a fair amount of concern from the commercial troll fleet.

In an article in the August 14 article of the Daily News, the dangers as outlined by the trollers was examined, with the crab fleet pointing to changes in DFO practices that now see the Crabbers responsible for the coast of gear retrieval, a controversial change that seems to have contributed to the problem of discarded gear.

Trollers voice safety concerns
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Page one

Commercial trollers on the north coast are concerned that their safety is being put in jeopardy by the large amount of grab gear left in Hecate Strait fishing grounds.

Yesterday trollers met with the Area ”A” Crab Association to voice their concerns that a huge amount of stray gear is creating hazards for fishermen who are getting caught up on it and losing their own gear as a result. One fisherman said he lost four lines last week to snags on crab gear that he couldn’t see, since the markers for such stray gear are often submerged during high tides. Another troller claimed that last year there was no spot to anchor at night in the Toe Hill area without having serious problems.

Longtime troller Norm Ostrom said his biggest concern is that a trolling boat’s stabilizers could catch the line of a sanded-in crab pot, which could actually pull a trolling vessel upside down.

“I can see something very bad happening out there,” said Ostrom. “Every year it gets worse, and this is the worst I’ve ever seen it. Not to mention the hundreds of dollars in trolling gear we’re losing when we hit stray gear, some of which is irreplaceable since it’s not being made anymore.”

Members of the Area “A” Crab Association said that accumulating crab gear is not something they want to see, and that next year during their gear recovery effort they can put a concentrated effort into the traditional trolling waters.

They also said the crab fleet has suffered huge gear losses this year, which has added to the build up.

However, the Association explained that there exists a “grey zone” between stray gear and what’s considered ‘left gear,’ and that it would be difficult to draw a line between what traps vessels could legitimately pick-up without stealing gear from other crews.

“We will make every attempt to clean up the gear for next year, and it was never the intent of any of the crab fleet to endanger any fishermen,” said Area “A” director Les Maxwell. “We don’t like to see you guys losing gear, and we don’t want to lose gear.”

This year the Area “A” Crab Association spent five days doing gear recovery at their own expense, a cost that was once covered by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Ostrom said trollers feel that since the stray gear I creating a safety issue for the fleet, DFO should be stepping up to cover the cost of an extensive recovery effort that would benefit everyone.

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