By Greg Bennett
Provincial fisheries minister Sterling Belliveau says lobster fishermen should have access to underdeveloped species like stone crab and quohogs to help supplement their incomes.
Belliveau, who was speaking in Ottawa to the Senate Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans on Feb. 12, says fishermen would be willing to help gather the information needed for scientific research.
"Several Nova Scotia fishermen have applied to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to fish stone crab and other undeveloped species and been denied due to a lack of scientific information or old data," Belliveau said in a presentation to the Senate Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.
"Well let's get some. The province is willing to partner with DFO to help support the scientific research necessary to develop two exploratory species and to pay our share," he said.
Belliveau told the committee that providing the province's lobster harvesters with access to underdeveloped species will help them diversify and supplement their incomes. He cited green crab, hag fish, quohogs and Irish moss as having potential.
“They (the federal government) have to recognize that there are opportunities here,” he said.
During his presentation to the Senate committee, Belliveau also took a swipe at federal government’s changes to the Employment Insurance system.
“The lobster fishery employs thousands of Nova Scotians, many of whom are seasonal employees that rely on EI benefits. The federal government needs to understand the realities of living in rural parts of Canada," said Belliveau. "Throughout Nova Scotia's coastal areas, the lobster industry depends on these experienced workers."
He stressed that the loss of experienced crew to better paying jobs out west was a major safety concern for the industry.
Belliveau also said Ottawa needs to provider clearer direction to the troubled lobster fishery. He used the appearance before the Senate Standing Committee to raise concerns about recent comments suggesting the possibility of quotas for the inshore lobster fishery.
"I have spoken to many fishermen and community leaders who are concerned about the recent federal comment, as a quota system for the inshore lobster fishery could jeopardize the independence of the fishery and further erode small business and reduce independent harvesters."
He said the talk of possible quotas and other recent federal announcements on changes to the lobster trap tag program and EI reform, have been troubling at a time when the lobster fishery needs stability.
"They need to listen to the voices of thousands of people in this industry who are expressing concerns and frustrations," he said.