Eel season starts despite anoxic rivers

Eel fishing season opened on P.E.I. Thursday after being delayed a week due to poor water quality.

The eel fishing season opened on P.E.I. Thursday after being delayed a week due to poor water quality.

An unusually high number of rivers on the Island are anoxic, a condition that occurs when blooms of aquatic vegetation die and suck oxygen out of the water as they rot. The blooms are caused by excess nutrients in the water.

Marvin Jollimore, who has been an eel fisherman for more than 30 years, had asked for the season to be delayed until Sept. 1.

He said anoxic waters have led to more dead eels being hauled out of the water.

It's the first time Jollimore can remember setting this late, the eel fishing season usually begins in the middle of August.

"Over the last number of years we've had trouble … with the anoxic water and the eels dying in the nets, and I can't get paid for a dead eel," said Jollimore.

Jollimore said he's setting his nets despite wanting the season to start later. He said if he delayed, then someone else might have taken his fishing spots.

"If I don't go and set any nets up there and somebody else comes along and sets, then that potentially closes me out from fishing in that area," he said.

"I do expect to see, without a shadow of a doubt, dead eels in some of my nets because of poor water."

Other fishermen told CBC News they would've preferred the season be delayed a little longer.

DFO said it was taking a cautious approach in dealing with the eel fishing season.

"The revenue taken from the fishery is very important for those that participate," said Colin MacIsaac, area chief for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. "To put undue hardship on those that really depend on the eel fishery by delaying it for two or three weeks or longer, that was perceived to be a little bit of an undue hardship."

The season normally ends Oct. 15.

The DFO will consult with fishermen at the end of September and decide if another week will be tacked onto the end of the season.

Jollimore says he will push to get the setting day delayed even further next year.