An Abundance of Lobsters?

A translation by Judith Turcotte

Lobsters are in abundance this year in Gaspésie and the fishermen are expecting a record year. In a Radio-Canada news report, the managing director of the Regroupement des pêcheurs professionnels du sud de la Gaspésie attributed this result to the fishermen who, in his opinion, had made great efforts in achieving sustainable fishing. According to the director, the fishermen had learned, at their expense, the effects of overfishing. In 2010, the lobstermen had harvested just over 1000 tons of lobster. In 2023, the quantity captured was estimated at 4900 tons. The fishermen take credit for the return of the lobsters in Gaspésie; I have no reason to believe that their efforts did not contribute but beware, they mention only on the tip of their tongues that climate change is also responsible.

While the fishermen of Gaspésie are showing off, those of the state of Maine are facing a significant decrease in the number of lobsters on the Atlantic coast. The increase in the water’s temperature is the principal reason for the migration of lobsters toward the estuary and the gulf of the St. Lawrence.

The increase in the lobster population in the St. Lawrence would therefore be in part due to the lobster immigration from the state of Maine to Québec. Without a doubt, these immigrants reproduce with our native lobsters. Could their offspring be considered as Québec lobsters? Can we rely on the blue plastic bands around the claws? It is perhaps the reason why the Québec origin of the catch is now identified to the fisherman. A lobster caught in Québec is accompanied by a tag which reveals the name of the fisherman and the name of his boat.

Nature is difficult to understand. While the lobsters are invading the gulf and estuary of the St. Lawrence in search of cold water, the stocks of Nordic shrimps (Matane shrimps) are decreasing dramatically due to the warming of the deep water of the St. Lawrence. The shrimp fishing quotas have decreased from 30,000 tons ten years ago to 3,060 tons for the 2024 season with the result that the shrimp processing plant in Matane has just closed. Difficult to understand.

When we analyze the reason why our Nordic shrimps are disappearing, it is possible to assume that the abundance of our lobsters in the river could only be a short-term phenomenon.  I use   the possessive “we” because both the shrimps and the lobsters belong to us. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is a federal institution responsible for the protection of these resources and the fishermen are our agents responsible for the harvesting of this resource which belongs to us. The two groups assure us that they take the survival of these species seriously. However the great difficulty lies in predicting the consequences of climate change on our river and its inhabitants.

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