Tuna fishermen on Prince Edward Island are having their quotas raised for the first time since 1990 after a decision this week at an international fishery conference in Italy.
The amount of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna that can be caught has been increased by 250 tonnes, going from 1750 tonnes to 2000 tonnes.
The decision was made at International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna or ICCAT, meetings in Genoa, Italy.
A portion of that goes to P.E.I. fishermen. The rest will be split between other parts of Canada and the United States and Mexico.
Walter Bruce is a tuna fisherman who said Tuesday every fish counts.
“Anything extra is always good,” he said. “It's not much, mind you, it'll probably mean a third of our licensed fishermen will get two tags this year instead of a quarter. It's about 60 extra fish.”
He says that 60 extra fish sends a big message.
New research shows the tuna population in the Atlantic is growing after hitting historic lows in the 1990’s.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says that's why it pushed to have the quota raised, at this week’s international fishery gathering. Bruce agrees the stocks are stronger, but still not healthy.
“There is more tuna now definitely than there was in 2000, 1990-2000,” he said. “But from my own point of view the tuna are hungry, ask any buyer, ask any fisherman, it's hard to find a fat fish any more. The food chain is the problem.”
Bruce is saying while Tuna are being protected from overfishing, their food supply isn't.
“The point I`m trying to make is, if they're trying to rebuild the stock back to the 1970s, they're not going to do it unless they increase the food chain somehow and that means putting restrictions on the mackerel and herring fishery,” he said.
DFO estimates the increase could put an extra $2 million in the pockets of tuna fishermen from Atlantic Canada and Quebec.
The decision to increase quota doesn’t please some environmental groups, including the Ecology Action Network in Halifax. They want to wait and see what stocks are like in two years after another assessment according to Katie Schleit.
"We think it's a really short-sighted decision and it's quite unfortunate given that we're just starting to see some signs of recovery, and, you know, this risks maybe reversing some of that," she said. "You know there's a 50 per cent chance that you'll still see growth, but that means there's a 50 per cent chance you won't."
That's when the federal government will make its decision, on whether to list Atlantic Bluefin Tuna as an endangered species.