UPDATE: DFO cites lack of data for crab fishery closure, but crab association cries foul

Members of the Area A Crab Association are meeting with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to determine why their fishing season was suddenly cut short.

Crab fishermen were told on Friday that the fishery would be halted. DFO spokesperson Diane Lake, however, said the closure was needed based on the latest sampling done of the fishery and was pursuant to the commercial harvest plan contained in the crab Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IMFP).

“There needs to be enough data to keep the fishery open. This year there is not a lot of data so the fishery needed to be closed because of conservation concerns,” she said, noting the closure should not have come as a surprise.

“There have been consultations ongoing since March with the fishermen in area A.”

However, Area A Crab Association executive director Dan Edwards is at a loss as to why the fishery was closed, and said the news took all fishermen by surprise.

“It was closed totally unexpectedly. We did not at all foresee a closure ... the DFO did it without any notice at all,” he said from Vancouver, where meetings with the department were taking place.

“There has never been any suggestion that the data was so insufficient as to close the fishery down until earlier today ... In fact it's the opposite, based on the eight tests done so far the DFO was able to keep the fishery open.”

With the fishery set to close on July 5, fishermen are faced with spending thousands of dollars to get their pots, bring them back into port and return them to the sea when the fishery is scheduled to open on Aug. 1. But with the most recent fine for leaving pots in the water totalling $1,500 and as frustrations with a closure Edwards called “disturbing” increased, some vessel owners discussed leaving their pots in the water in a non-fishing state during the closure in protest – something the association said it could not endorse as it would be an illegal action.

DFO were continuing to look at the data to see if the closure could be reversed, but Edwards said he is not holding out hope.

“My conversation with these guys is that they are sticking with the manager's decision ... and sticking with the vague language in the IMFP saying if there is insufficient data they can close the fishery,” he said.

“The chances of a re-opening are slim to none ... they have set-up a situation where they are holding us hostage against time.

A notice on the DFO website indicates the fishery will close for good on July 5, but that no traps were to be baited or re-baited as of 11:59 p.m. on June 21.

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