The ax falls on Madelinot bait anglers

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The cleaver falls on Madelinot bait fishermen

Baits, such as winter flounder and yellowtail flounder, are used by lobster boats. (File photo)

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What the Magdalen Islands Bait Fishermen's Group feared finally happened. Fisheries and Oceans is closing the winter flounder and yellow flounder fishery indefinitely.

The Minister indicates that the stocks of these two species have been in considerable decline for several years, i.e. 2004 for winter flounder and 2009 for yellowtail flounder.

There is no indication according to the biologists of the ministry that the population of these two species is in the process of recovering. Fisheries and Oceans adds that it is thus complying with the new Fisheries Act, which aims to limit commercial fishing removals when stock growth is threatened.

Eight fishers and just over a dozen employees lost their livelihood. Bait fishing provides the bulk of their income. Most only hold this license. Some have just acquired it.

The department has no plans to pay financial compensation, says the director of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine area office of Pêches and Oceans Canada, Cédric Arseneau.

The ministry has no plans to pay financial compensation to fishermen who will be without income. (File photo)

The priority, he says, will be stock recovery. That is to say, we will have to think, with science and management, about how these stocks can recover and how we can eventually reopen a fishery.

The moratorium could extend beyond 2023, but Cédric Arseneau is optimistic and hopes that the cessation of fishing will bring results in the short term. It always takes a few years for the stock to recover. What is interesting in the context of flounder and plaice is that the stock trajectory in recent years has been quite encouraging.

The president of the Island Bait Fishermen's Association, Jean-Bernard Bourgeois, deplores the lack of solutions on the part of Minister Joyce Murray. We find that this is a considerable lack of understanding of the fisheries sector on the part of the Minister.

Mr. Bourgeois recalls that the fishermen want above all to return to sea, as quickly as possible. He believes that the bait fishery is subject to decisions that were subsequently taken by the department, when the fishery had been open to all lobster boats from 2009 to 2012.

These fishermen therefore suffer the same fate as the pelagic fishermen of the Gaspé Peninsula. The latter remained docked last year when Ottawa imposed a moratorium on the spring herring and mackerel fishery two days before the opening of the season.

The small-scale flounder and plaice fishery, whose landed value is just over $2 million, was essentially used to supply the Madelinot lobster fishermen with fresh bait. The Bait Fishermen's Association says it served nearly half of the lobster fleet. They will therefore have to find other sources of supply.

With the collaboration of Isabelle Larose

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