Eel fishermen meet with DFO to prevent gear conflicts
Higher prices, decline in other fishing encouraging more eel harvesting
The eel fishing season has started on Prince Edward Island and representatives from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans have met with fishermen to help prevent any trouble.
Higher eel prices and a decline in other fishing industries have encouraged people to harvest eels.
George Dowdle has been fishing eel for 14 years and says more fishermen mean new problems.
"There's things being said and threats being made,” he says. “It got really ugly and the wife was kind of scared to even go in her own boat at the end of it. Nets being tampered with and cut up and moved."
To prevent gear conflicts, DFO met with the Eel Advisory Committee before the season started last week. At the meeting, fishermen were advised on how the government would handle gear conflicts if they did happen.
Fisheries Officer Kent MacRae says before the season starts, ground rules were in place.
It got really ugly and the wife was kind of scared to even go in her own boat at the end of it.- George Dowdle
"Because more people are exercising their licences now we wanted to make sure that people didn't have problems with setting their nets too close,” he says.
Fishermen have an agreement on the Southwest River where Dowdle fishes, a move that has improved the fishing season for everyone.
"It's way better than a derby style fishery because it takes all that animosity out,” he says. “Ripping and tearing, overloaded boats, stuff like that. Now it's much safer."
Although the move may cut down on conflicts on the water, the new competition is tough on Dowdle's bottom line. He says he lost about $8,000 last year.
"They have a right to access as well,” he says. “It's an unfortunate circumstance that they have to exercise a licence they not normally would."
Dowdle says the agreement has eased tension, but he would like to see permanent spots that don't change from year to year.
"We won't be losing ground anymore, like what we have we have,” he says.
DFO says it’s an idea worth considering and they have also heard interest for agreements like the one in the Southwest River for other rivers.