BC CRAB FISHERIES OVERVIEW
The BC Dungeness crab fishery has 220 “R” licenses participating. Vessels range in size between 16’-60’. On the south coast the boats tend to be smaller (<35’) and manned by one to three persons. Many of the inshore crabbers are very fast, capable of 30 knots or more. On the North Coast the vessels are larger (>35’) and are designed to withstand the open and frequently rough waters of Hecate Strait
The coast is divided into seven management areas. Hi-Gear Seafood obtains its crab from areas E and H. Area E is the west coast of Vancouver Island and Area H stretches from Victoria almost all the way to Campbell River on the east side of the island. Each area has its own association and each association elects a person to represent them on the Crab Sectoral Committee(CSC). The CSC is chaired by Fisheries Canada meets once or twice a year to discuss crab management issues. At this time efforts are being made to form a coast wide association known as the BC Crab Fisherman’s Association.
A few years ago, Electronic Monitoring (EM)was introduced to the fleet. This coincided with the implementation of Trap Quota (TQ) as it was clear that enforcement was essential. TQ was needed as the fishery got to the point where there were simply far too many traps being fished. In area A (Haida Gwaii) TQ is based on the length of the vessel. In all other areas a cap is placed on the total number of traps per area divided by the number of vessels electing to fish there.
EM works like this. Each vessel is equipped with a black box for processing data. Connected to this box are a GPS antenna, hydraulic pressure sensor and a wand for scanning radio tags. Each crab trap has a uniquely numbered “tag” that is scanned as the trap comes aboard. At the same time, the hydraulic sensor registers a “spike” that should that must coincide with the number and timing of tags scanned. Meanwhile, the GPS component tracks the vessels location, course and speed. In addition, in area A cameras record all deck activity. Area A regulations stipulate that each trap fished must have its own float. The radio tags are embedded in the float which is scanned upon hauling.