An Exploration of Our Marine Protected Areas

Interview with Jennifer Janes, images provided by Dave Howells. When fishermen in Eastport in Bonavista Bay noticed a steady decline in their lobster catch, they came together and took immediate action. Working with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, they worked to establish the Eastport Marine Protected Areas in 2005. Jennifer Janes, a scientist who worked on the project, explains how MPA status helped stabilize the lobster fishery.

Background: The Eastport Marine Protected Area

The Eastport MPAs Round Island MPA and Duck Island MPA

Background

The Oceans Act, which came into force on January 31, 1997, provides authority for the development of tools necessary to carry out Canada’s Ocean Strategy, such as the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

The Eastport initiative was grassroots driven, based on proposals received from local community sponsor groups requesting that the area be considered under the MPA Program. Eastport was officially designated as a MPA in the fall of 2005. The Eastport MPA is comprised of two closed areas, Duck Island and Round Island. The MPAs are part of an overall lobster conservation strategy for the Eastport Peninsula and are located within a 400km2 conservation area known as the Eastport Peninsula Lobster Management Area (EPLMA).

A Management Plan outlining the conservation objectives, management measures, monitoring program, and public education and awareness activities was completed in 2007 and the 5-year Management Plan has been updated to guide the MPAs from 2013 to 2018.

©David Howells 2015 www.davehowellsphoto.com

The regulatory conservation objective for the Eastport MPAs is to maintain a viable population of American Lobster through the conservation, protection, and sustainable use of resources and habitats within the Eastport Peninsula Lobster Management Area.

At a glance:

  • In response to declining trends in lobster landings along the northeast coast of Newfoundland in the early 1990s, a group of stakeholders in the Eastport area, formed the Eastport Peninsula Lobster Protection Committee (EPLPC) in 1995.
  • The aim of the EPLPC was to implement an overall lobster conservation strategy for the Eastport Peninsula. Based on the initial success of various measures implemented for this initiative (such as self-policing and monitoring to reduce illegal fishing, and V-notching to protect egg-bearing females), they continued their work with DFO.
  • In 1997, an agreement between the Eastport Peninsula Lobster Protection Committee and DFO was developed to limit local fisheries, and to close two areas known to be productive lobster habitats: Duck Island and Round Island (combined total area of 2.1 km2). These waters were later closed under the Fisheries Act to all commercial and recreational fishing activity.
  • Eastport was officially designated as a Marine Protected Area under the Oceans Act in October 2005. The disturbance, damage, destruction, or removal of any living organism or any part of its habitat within the MPAs is prohibited.
  • Fishery officers in the area serve as the primary enforcement body and community watch groups to ensure that the proposed management actions and Regulations for the area are respected.
  • Scientific monitoring programs have been implemented for the MPAs to assess the effectiveness of management actions to achieve the conservation objectives. Lobster harvesters were trained by DFO staff to carry out the data collection every year, which looks at lobster movement and population structure data, at-sea sampling data, and logbooks.

The American Lobster

The American Lobster (Homarus americanus) is a relatively long-lived, cold water shellfish that occurs along the west coast of the Atlantic Ocean, from Newfoundland to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Adult lobsters prefer rocky bottoms where they can find shelter, but also live on sandy and muddy bottoms. Individuals can have a lifespan of more than 30 years. Commercial fishing activity generally takes place at depths less than 50 m. Lobsters are believed to take approximately 8 to10 years to reach a carapace length of 82.5 mm, which is the minimum legal size in Newfoundland and Labrador. To grow, a lobster undergoes molting. As lobsters age the molting frequency decreases. Mating occurs after the summer molt in July to September. Female lobsters later extrude eggs to the abdomen where they are fertilized and then develop for approximately 9-12 months post–mating. Egg bearing females cannot be retained and have to be returned to the water. Larger females are able to reproduce more, so the protection of larger females would likely serve to enhance the productivity of the population.

©David Howells 2015 www.davehowellsphoto.com

Conservation Objectives

The regulatory conservation objectives for Eastport are:

  • To maintain a viable population of American lobster (Homarus americanus) through the conservation, protection, and sustainable use of resources and habitats; and
  • To ensure the conservation and protection of threatened or endangered species.

The non-regulatory conservation objectives are:

  • To ensure participation of interested and affected stakeholders and the overall management of the resource;
  • To increase stewardship and public awareness of lobster, the ecosystem of the Eastport MPAs and marine conservation measures;
  • To promote scientific research to increase levels of understanding regarding the Eastport MPA ecosystem and to help achieve the conservation objectives;
  • To ensure potential economic benefits resulting from conservation of the resource are centred in the local communities of the Eastport Peninsula; and to maintain and enhance the quality of the Eastport ecosystem.