Mr. Ross Belsher (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency):
Mr. Speaker, I wish to again thank the member for Cumberland-Colchester
for his vigilant watch over the lobster carapace size in his riding.
A program to increase the minimum lobster carapace size to two and three-quarter inches was introduced in several lobster fishing areas, better known as LFAs, in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence in 1990 and 1991. The program which provided for four annual increases in minimum size was suspended in 1992, as the hon. member has said, after two increases in LFAs 23 and 25 and one increase in LFA 26-A.
The suspension was in response to concerns raised by some industry representatives and the province of P.E.I. that the full biological, market and economic implications of the changes were not well understood. To address these concerns, in April 1992 the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and all Atlantic provincial fisheries ministers gave their unanimous commitment to undertake an independent study to assess the implications of increasing the minimum carapace size. This comprehensive study was intended to provide answers relevant to making a decision on carapace size before the 1993 season.
The study goes a long way toward answering questions relevant to making decisions regarding carapace size. However the minister announced in March of this year that there would be no changes in minimum legal carapace size for the 1993 season, given the depressed state of the Atlantic fishing industry, the current economic climate and the lack of time available for extensive consultation on the results of the consultant's study before the 1993 season opened.
Gulf Nova Scotia fishermen have now put forth another proposal, as the hon. member has said, to create a dividing line through LFA 26-A so the minimum legal carapace size could be frozen on the P.E.I. side of the line and scheduled carapace increases could continue on the Nova Scotia side.
There are presently four different carapace sizes throughout the southern gulf. The enforcement and management implications of the proposal to create a dividing line at LFA-