“We have chased many elephants out of the room,” said Leonard Leblanc of the Gulf Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board, at this year’s General Assembly of the Lobster Node of the Canadian Fisheries Research Network (CFRN).  Held in Halifax on March 5-6, 2013, the Assembly marked the third time the Lobster Node has gathered to discuss its ground-breaking research on stock structure and connectivity of the American lobster.  The research is attempting to shed some light on the degree to which lobster in different management zones throughout Atlantic Canada are connected by the dispersal of larvae in the water column and the movement of adults on the seafloor.  A total of 57 people attended the Assembly, making it the largest to date.  Participants included lobster fleet representatives from five provinces, First Nations, academic and student researchers, and government scientists from four DFO research labs and one provincial department.  The Assembly was chaired by CFRN Facilitator Marc Allain. 

The Assembly offered an opportunity to reflect on the importance of the Lobster Node.  Leonard Leblanc recalled how, two and a half years ago, a group of harvesters, academics and DFO scientists met to entertain the possibility of embarking on a new concept of collaboration.  “There was initially an apprehension from harvesters’ associations,” said Leblanc.  “We were not sure what we were doing in the same room.”  Through open and direct dialogue and the combined leadership of all participants, the apprehension shifted to a sense of ease and eventually trust and a common language were established.  “Open and transparent communication has broken down many walls.  This Lobster Node process has been a great help,” stressed Leblanc.  “We now have the full circle of participants needed to have an effective science research team.” 

The emphasis of the CFRN is on co-construction of projects leading to meaningful collaborations on research of strategic importance to industry and management.  This achievement is indeed exemplified by the Lobster Node, with its outstanding track record of collaboration and data collection.  In an unprecedented mobilization effort spanning five provinces, data collection on-board vessels in 2012 included 400 trips from 84 vessels in 66 ports, and in 2011 included 432 trips from 63 vessels in 59 ports.

The General Assembly was largely devoted to research updates by students of the Lobster Node.  Small group discussions were used to provide detailed feedback on activities to date and issues to address in the future.  They included discussion of data gaps, research next steps, field planning for 2013, and improving communications among partners.  Among the suggestions for improving communications were to 1) make use of industry newsletters for conveying information about activities and research; 2) engage the media/press; 3) have longer presentations on each project or sub-project (this may require individual project meetings); and 4) have students attend DFO stock assessment meetings.  Additional presentations were made on climate change research, including ocean acidification and lobster.  Financial reports were reviewed for the CFRN as a whole and for the Lobster Node specifically. 

The highlight of the Assembly was a poster session and reception held at the end of the first day.  The event was the brainchild of the Gulf Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board, which sponsored the reception in the hopes that it would break the ice and get people talking about the research underway.  The result was a lively and informative event abuzz with discussion among partners.  Benoît Bruneau of Université de Moncton took home the prize for Best Student Poster by ballot vote.  We thank the Gulf Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board for their contributions in making this event a success.