From Science to Sustainability: Sea Scallops in the Maritimes
The work that we do is in support of science advice for fisheries management. So what that means is that we are the ones that go out and get the numbers and provide the numbers and provide the scientific support for how many scallop are out there in the wild that could be caught to support a sustainable fishery.
We work directly with industry from the ground up. We actually conduct our surveys on industry vessels; we’re on fishing boats when we go to sea to do our survey.
I coordinate the surveys while we’re at sea. Coordinate the vessel and I’m responsible for all the data collection. We take this gear and we tow it along the bottom for 8 minutes. And when we haul it back we pick all of the scallops and count them all no matter if they are small or big, we count them all.
They also collect the bycatch, like lobster and groundfish etc. and have a bycatch estimate as well. Everything we collect directly affects every fisherman that’s fishing scallops in the bay.
I literally run between the wheelhouse and the deck to track every tow…. To get the location, depth, we collect temperature and course, so that we can know exactly where they came from and then I oversee the data collection and count with the person I bring with me that provides support.
We then bring them back to the office, bring them back to the lab, we analyze them, we write our reports and them we present them in meetings like as a regional advisory process meeting. So that’s where industry is there, science is there, fisheries management is there, as well as any other stakeholders or parties interested, such as province, ENGO’s, and then that’s the forum that we say, this is what we think is there, this is how much you can take for the following year, and then Fisheries Management will then use that information to make a decision in conjunction with input from industry on what the catch level is going to be for the following year.
We then take that advice and we add other management measures like vessel monitoring systems, we add other things like minimum shell height, we add seasons, we add other things like they have to fill out log books and different things like this and all that goes together into a management plan. That management plan is how we manage the fishery.
It has guided us in the past to close areas temporarily to allow the scallops to grow without human interaction. In other areas we may see that there’s an abundant population of older scallop and we’d like to focus our exploitation in that area instead of on the juvenile’s that are more sensitive so it guides a big part of my life and a big part of how I plan my business.
A lot of fishermen want to be just fishermen but I want more knowledge than just what fishing brings me, so I wanted to be part of this and to see how it works see how it helps me to manage my fishery and my business.
I get a chance to work with the people that this information directly impacts and in that way, there’s a good feedback loop. I can help them understand the science and they can help me understand the fishery a little more.
You know if I’m borrowing money as an investor I want to be able to know that I’m going to be able to pay that back and through the science process they give us that outlook that it’s going to be there for me to pay back the money I owe.
I really like it when what the fishermen see and what we see in our data models and all that stuff … when they match. And everybody says yup we have the right picture.
It means a lot, you know that what you do and how you do your job really makes a difference to somebody else and to their livelihood, to their families, to the future of their fishery. It’s important work and knowing that I’m having that impact… it means a lot to me and I really enjoy what I do.
I sleep a lot better knowing that there’s a team of professionals like this working in my industry. And what I get to take back to industry and other fishermen as a rep in my area is incredible. What I can tell people is that the process works, it’s needed, and I enjoy being a part of it. I enjoy what I’m learning.
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