By Tina Comeau
Another load of lobster traps was brought to the wharf on Yarmouth’s waterfront on Tuesday but these weren’t traps that will be going into the water when the season starts next week, rather they were illegal traps hauled out of the water by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Earlier in the day on Nov. 22, DFO seized 50 illegal traps from the water not far off of Yarmouth. Now an investigation is underway to determine who owned the traps and who was fishing them.
DFO field supervisor Dan Fleck said all of the lobsters inside the traps were returned to the water.
“There was probably an average of 30 lobsters per trap,” he said.
The lobster season in lobster fishing area 34 does not open until Nov. 28.
Fleck said the department was alerted to the traps through information passed on by a fisherman.
“We received a tip from a fisherman,” Fleck said. “We’ve got a great working relationship with the fishermen here in Yarmouth County. We work together. They called and we responded.
“Now we have to ascertain ownership of the traps and who was actually fishing them,” said Fleck.
The traps were marked with buoys in the water. Aside from the traps, the buoys and rope were also seized. The seized traps and gear was brought back to shore late Tuesday afternoon aboard the Coast Guard vessel Geliget.
Asked if fishermen are quite forthcoming in reporting incidents of illegal fishing, Fleck said they are and the relationship between the department and fishermen has grown over the years.
“We’ve got to give credit to the old fishery officers, the people who retired, because they’ve made our jobs a lot easier in this co-management and shared stewardship with the fishermen,” he said, adding that people’s livelihoods and the economy rely on the lobster fishery so it is important that the industry be protected.
He said regardless of whether illegal fishing is taking place during a closed time, or if it is happening during the commercial fishery, fishermen will report illegal acts.
“People see it we get a call,” said Fleck. “They don’t stand for it.”