Lobstermen question the need for camera surveillance aboard vessels in Nova Scotia

Published on
June 26, 2017

Several Nova Scotia lobster fishermen voiced doubt over their support of the possible implementation of vessel video surveillance during a workshop held last week in Lockport, Nova Scotia.  

Camera surveillance aboard fishing boats was the primary topic of discussion during the 22 June information session hosted by Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans and organized by the Ecology Action Center. The session was attended by more than a hundred southwest Nova Scotia fishermen, many of whom were concerned that the technology posed a threat to their privacy, CBC News reported.

Speakers including a fisherman from British Columbia and a program manager from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. Discussion focused on the use of camera surveillance as a means to monitor catch and to cut down on bycatch, in particular regional endangered species such as Atlantic cod and cusk. However, many fishermen claimed practices are already in place that do enough to provide proper catch assurances. 

Port La Tour fisherman Wilford Smith noted that the industry is already self-reporting its bycatch in logbooks, and throwing at-risk species back.

Regarding the prospect of camera surveillance on boats, Smith said: "What for? We've got nothing to hide...We're not keeping nothing secret,” according to CBC News. 

Spurred by insistence from main lobster-buying markets – including the United States, Europe and Asia – requiring evidence of the sustainability of imported seafood, the Nova Scotia lobster fishery obtained certification from the Marine Stewardship Council in 2015. As standards continue to evolve, though, the elements needed to prove the sustainability of catch is changing as well, and there aren’t a lot of options beyond camera surveillance that are cost-effective, according to Susanna Fuller, senior marine co-ordinator at the Ecology Action Center. While video surveillance isn’t being imposed upon Nova Scotia lobster fishermen, alternatives including at-sea observers will cost more, Fuller told CBC News. 

It could cost lobsterman up CAD 7,000 (USD 5,283; EUR 4,724) to buy a suitable camera for their vessels, and additional fees for a company to review their footage, ranging from CAD 10 (USD 7.54, EUR 6.74) to check for only endangered species to CAD 500 (USD 377, EUR 337) for a “Cadillac service,” according to estimates shared during the workshop. 

"Everybody's not a millionaire in this industry," remarked captain Kevin Ross in reference to the costs, per CBC News’ report. He worried that fishermen would incur the expenses, which would be hard for them to absorb on top of operational costs, vessel maintenance and crew pay. 

Questions of the technology’s durability in rough winter and spring conditions were also brought to the fore during the workshop.

"They don't know what we go through, blowing 25 to 30, and spray coming over. I mean, they don't understand," said Smith, according to the newspaper.

The crab and groundfish fisheries in British Columbia have used cameras to monitor catch for years, CBC News reported, with the technology often mounted on the wheelhouse or rigging of the boats. A pilot project testing out cameras for the tuna industry is also underway in waters near Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, the newspaper said.

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