Tuna fisherman in P.E.I. say a scientific advisory panel's recommendation that the Atlantic bluefin tuna be considered endangered would be another serious blow to the inshore fishery.
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, a group of scientists and government representatives that advises the environment minister, recommended on Monday that the Atlantic bluefin tuna be listed in Canada as an endangered species.
Walter Bruce, chair of the tuna advisory committee for the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association, has fished for tuna out of North Lake, P.E.I. for more than 40 years. He hopes it doesn't come to that.
"It's just another nail in the coffin of the inshore fishermen as we know it," said Bruce.
"There isn't too many species we can fish anymore. There's lobster, a bit of herring, and the ground fishery's dead in the water. The way it looks now it's not a bright future."
Bruce and his fellow fishermen believe the designation is unnecessary.
"The way we fish is pretty artisan," he said.
The P.E.I. fishermen use a line and hook. The quota for this year is set to be about 380 fish, and even with a hook and line that is caught pretty quickly, usually with less than a week of fishing. Last year the quota was caught in two days.
But the committee is taking a long view, looking beyond the abundant supply of fish off P.E.I.'s North Shore in the last few years. It notes that the number of individual spawning Atlantic bluefin Tuna has declined by almost 70 per cent since 1970.
"It's a magnificent animal, and it has been fished for several decades," said committee member Alan Sinclair.
"It would be most helpful if it was just left alone for a while to see if it would start to recover without fishing. If we could forego fishing for a few years then maybe there'd be signs of recovery and good reasons for optimism."
The environment minister will receive the recommendation by August, and he has nine months after that to make a final decision. If the minister accepts the recommendation, it would be the first time that a commercially-fished saltwater species has ever been listed as endangered under the law in Canada.