Lobster landings have soared over the last three years in fishing areas along Quebec’s North Shore, Gaspé, Magdalen Islands and Anticosti Island, according to new stock assessments released by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Quebec fishermen caught 8,127 tonnes of the crustacean in 2018, up from 5,900 tonnes in 2015.
The biggest increases in landings were in the province’s smallest lobster fishing areas along the North Shore, which accounts for three per cent of total landings.
In Lobster Fishing Areas 15, 16 and 18 — all along the North Shore — landings jumped by 82 per cent, 305 per cent and 423 per cent between 2015 and 2018.
The government says that in 2017, the Quebec lobster fishery was worth $117 million.
Lobster stock healthy and in good condition
DFO says lobster populations are healthy in all Quebec-based lobster fisheries in the Gulf of St. Lawrence area.
“Abundance indicators are up sharply on the North Shore and at Anticosti Island. Lobster populations in these areas appear to be in good condition,” the report says.
Quebec’s biggest lobster fishery is based on the Magdalen Islands, where landings reached historic peaks in 2018 at 4,757 tonnes — 91 per cent higher than the 25-year average.
“High abundance and productivity indicate that the Magdalen Islands lobster stock is in good condition and that current exploitation levels are adequate,” the DFO stock assessment states.
Scientists predict landings in the Magdalen Islands will remain high for the next two-to-three years but the number of young lobsters entering the fishery could drop in the medium term.
Over the past three years, landings are up by 26 per cent in the three lobster fishing areas around Gaspé — although they dipped by 191 tonnes in 2018 because of conservation measures imposed to protect North Atlantic Right Whales.
Even so, the 2,315 tonnes landed at Gaspé wharves in 2018 was 116 per cent higher than the historical average between 1993 to 2017.
However, the assessment notes that lobsters in Area 20, off the Gaspé, have a small average size coupled with a high exploitation rate, which suggests that reducing the amount of lobster fishing there “must be pursued.”
“In the context of changes in the environment, it would be important to rapidly develop or update the biological knowledge essential for the sustainable management of these stocks,” the stock assessment reports.