Q&A on prawn and shrimp pulse fishing
In Saanich Inlet, Stuart Channel and Alberni Inlet, “pulse” fishing may be implemented after Labour Day weekend to increase prawn escapement and prawn abundance.
What areas are included?
High (recreational) use areas:
When is recreational fishing closed?
These 3 coastal areas begin "pulse fishing" the first day after Labour Day. This means these 3 coastal areas open in the last half of each month and will be closed for the following periods:
- The first day after Labour Day to September 15
- October 1 to October 15
- November 1 to November 15
- December 1 to December 15
- "Pulse fishing" (closed in the first half of the month and open in the second half of the month) may continue for the period January 1 to March 31 depending on the results of spawner index testing conducted in the fall
Why these 3 areas?
These are high use recreational fishing areas. High use areas are those where DFO has recorded more than 100 recreational prawn fishing buoys, on at least one occasion. These areas are managed to a higher spawner index in the commercial and recreational fishery, to leave more spawners on the grounds.
What is the spawner index?
The spawner index is a measure of the average number of female prawns caught in a standardized prawn trap fished for a 24 hour period.
Who does the sampling?
Commercial vessels do the sampling under scientific licence issued by DFO. Each vessel has a DFO trained prawn observer on board. Observers undergo certification and annual training and testing.
When does spawner index testing occur? What areas are included?
Spawner index testing commences in the commercial fishery in the first week of May. It continues throughout the commercial fishery, resulting in commercial fishing closures if the index declines towards the management targets. After the commercial fishing season, testing will occur in October or early November prior to prawns spawning.
Why is recreational fishing closed for one week in May in these areas?
This allows us to do comprehensive spawner index sampling throughout the 3 high use recreational fishing areas, so that we have a good data baseline at the beginning of the commercial fishing season. It allows the testing to go ahead without tangling up a lot of the recreational gear, as we have to test all of the fishing grounds.
Why are the areas being closed for a portion of each month in the fall?
The intent is to spread out fall fishing effort, increasing the overall period of time in the fall and winter when recreational prawn fishing can continue. This is part of a strategy that is attempting to increase overall prawn abundance and extend recreational fishing opportunity. The strategy was worked out between recreational and commercial fishing representatives of the Prawn Sectoral Committee which provides advice to DFO.
Why are the areas closed from January 1 to March 31 in some years?
January to March is the spawning season. Depending on the results of the spawner index testing conducted in the fall, the areas may close January 1 to March 31. This allows enough females to release their eggs and provides long-term sustainability of the stocks.
What else is being done?
Management has changed in these 3 areas to leave more spawners in the water. Potential benefits may be realized in the longer term if more females releasing their eggs results in increased prawn abundance.
Can I continue to fish other species of shrimp?
No, all recreational shrimp fishing is closed in these areas because you can’t really fish other shrimp without also harvesting female prawns carrying eggs.
Is the First Nations food fishery closed too?
First Nations have been advised of this management action. They may choose not to fish in these areas at these times. As “pulse fishing” is not a conservation closure, First Nations’ may continue to fish for food, social and ceremonial purposes.
Do prawns survive if they are released?
Prawns can survive if they are hauled to the surface and released, because they don’t have a swim bladder and they are unaffected by the depth change. However, there will always be some mortality due to handling, predators, and surface water conditions. Release prawns carrying eggs as quickly as possible at the site where they were caught or slightly shallower, to improve survival.
Contact Laurie Convey for more information on prawn pulse fishing.
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