There’s some optimism among licence holders as the first of the fall commercial lobster seasons in western Nova Scotia gets ready to open.
October 14 is dumping day in lobster fishing area (LFA) 35 in the Bay of Fundy.
“The old guys used to say if you didn’t catch them in the spring, you’ll catch them in the fall” and considering the spring season was “historically awful, I think there’s a lot of optimism among the licence holders in LFA 35 because the last few days of the spring season catches were coming on pretty strong,” said Colin Sproul of the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association.
“That’s usually an indication there will be some lobsters there for us this fall, so there’s some optimism.”
Sproul estimated landings for the spring fishery, which runs from March 1 to July 31, were “probably a 20-year low. It was the worst fishing we’ve seen in a long time across the district. That, coupled with the low prices. Normally with low catches we get a higher price… it was just a real bad season.”
The spring season closed with a $6/pound shore price that dropped as low as $5/pound, said Sproul. “I think we really dodged a bullet because catches were so low this spring,” considering all the market uncertainty surrounding COVID-19.
Going into the fall, demand “will depend on how markets continue to be impacted and respond to ongoing COVID-19 measures in key markets worldwide,” said Geoff Irvine executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada (LCC).
Irvine said prices on the live lobster market were “rising for hard-shell product from low levels in the spring” in late summer.
As for the processed market, Irvine said “lobster tails and meat have slowed their price drop and generally have not moved back up and remain steady at much lower levels than 2019. For whole in-shell lobster products, there is concern about COVID-19 measures being taken in China for all frozen seafood and how that will impact the market.”
Irvine said the LCC is working with the provinces and federal government to organize a series of virtual trade development activities in key Asian markets this fall and are continuing to implement the Long-term Value Strategy that is focused on marketing and promotion of Canadian lobster worldwide.
Sproul said there are “other issues we’re seeing up here” including “unrestrained tidal development in Petite Passage and Grand Passage” which is an “overhanging threat to our industry. The government is basically eliminating the need for any type of environmental assessment… projects are being exempted because of their size, small scale, but they’re going to be commercially viable. There’s that issue and there is an incredible amount of illegal fishing in the summertime.”
The Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association is one of 13 industry organizations in a coalition of Atlantic and Quebec fishing organizations who are calling for a crackdown on those that break the fishing rules and regulations.
“We need the Government of Canada to protect the public good. That means cracking down on all fishing outside of government-established fishing seasons immediately. Inaction puts the future of the fisheries at risk for everyone,” said Sproul.
A national survey commissioned by the coalition released in August shows that a very strong majority of Canadians want fisheries where everyone respects fishing regulations and the rules are enforced by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
According to the survey, about nine in 10 Canadians (89 per cent) say it is important to ensure everyone respects the fishing regulations based on the principles of sustainability and more than eight in 10 (87 per cent) say it’s important to enforce the rules set by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Survey results also indicate eight in 10 Canadians (79 per cent) believe it is important to have the government, Indigenous Leaders and fishing organizations negotiate directly together to manage the fisheries.