New Brunswick

Crab fishing season off to early start on Acadian Peninsula

The crab fishing season on the Acadian Peninsula has begun prior to the arrival of North Atlantic right whales.

Fishery hopes to avoid encounters with North Atlantic right whales

The crab fishing season in Shippagan has begun. (Alix Villeneuve/Radio-Canada)

Facing a lower quota, New Brunswick's crab fishers have begun their season.

At the wharf in Shippagan, boats prepared to take to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence late Friday despite frigid temperatures and the presence of ice in some places. The season officially began at midnight.

For Capt. Renald Guignard, it marked the continuation of a family tradition.

"My father was a fisherman, I'm a fisherman, it's my son who is taking over and he has his son with him," he told Radio-Canada.

"It's my 61st year, this year. I'm not able to not go for the first trip because I'm going to miss it."

The Acadian Peninsula received help from icebreakers from the Canadian Coast Guard and contracted boats to allow access to the waters before endangered North Atlantic right whales arrive.

Renald Guignard has been fishing crab for 61 years. (Alix Villeneuve/Radio-Canada)

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has reduced the catch quota. The department estimates it miscalculated the amount available by 10 to 30 per cent over the past two years.

In the zone that includes the Acadian Peninsula, the limit was lowered by about 26 per cent to 21,128 tonnes.

Fishers have faced challenges in reaching their quotas in recent years.

The New Brunswick Crab Processors Association said the industry left about 11 per cent of its quota in the water in 2020, or between $40 million and $50 million worth of product.

When the whales start to migrate into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence in May, many lucrative snow crab fishing grounds are forced to close. Fishing gear entanglements and ship strikes are the main cause of death for the species.

The risk of whale encounters often results in an early end to the season.

With files from Radio-Canada

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