Nova Scotia

Bluefin tuna industry needs more oversight, Pictou County fisherman says

A fisherman in Pictou County wants the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to increase oversight of the bluefin tuna fishing industry in Nova Scotia.

DFO could not determine what killed tuna found washed up from Northumberland Strait

A Pictou County fishermen says seven dead tuna washed up on the beach in one day in September. (Supplied by Amy Fraser )

A fisherman in Pictou County wants the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to increase oversight of the bluefin tuna fishing industry in Nova Scotia. 

Harold Bowen has fished out of Caribou along the Northumberland Strait his entire life, including for tuna.

One day, earlier this fall, seven dead tuna — one weighing 317 kilograms — washed up on the rocks, Bowen said Wednesday. Part of the fishing line was still hooked in at least one of them, he said. 

Fishermen Harold Bowen is concerned tuna died because of improper fishing practices that could have been prevented. (CBC)

He says that's an indication the tuna died as a result of improper fishing practices — and something he says DFO could do a better job of preventing.

"Maybe more observers, deck hands, whatever it takes... I know that they've been stretched in resources and you can see in the way that they're working," Bowen said.

DFO investigated the dead tuna in Caribou, department spokesperson Krista Petersen said in an email Wednesday afternoon. Investigators sent a piece of one tuna to a lab for a necropsy but could not conclusively determine the cause of death, she said.

The department increased patrols in the area as part of its investigation and did not find any more dead tuna, she said. 

Because of those patrols, charges are pending against an unrelated fisherman for allegedly using improper gear while fishing for tuna, Petersen said.

Wes Surrett of Pictou Lodge Resort took this photo of a dead tuna washed up in Pictou County. (Supplied by Wes Surrett)

"Each year, a certain number of bluefin tuna die as a result of the tuna fisheries, accidental catches in other fisheries or from natural causes," she said.

"These numbers are well within scientific parameters established by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas," which sets worldwide standards for fishing the species.

Tuna need careful handling, fisherman says

Bluefin tuna was classified in 2011 as an endangered species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. The Canadian government is assessing whether it should be added to the Species At Risk Act.

There are ways fishing could endanger the tuna, Bowen said.  The fish — if not being caught for food — need careful handling so to survive being hooked on a line, he said. 

Several fishermen in nearby Ballantynes Cove have been accused of practice called "high grading." That involves catching a tuna, but waiting to tag it in the hopes of catching a larger one.

Bowen says deck cameras would clear up questions of high grading or questionable practices during the tours.

With files from Bob Murphy and Rachel Ward

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