Lobster fishermen in the Upper Bay of Fundy (LFA 35) will lead the way for the fall lobster fishery in southwestern Nova Scotia with their season opener on Oct. 14.
“The signs for a decent fall are all there,” said Colin Sproul, spokesman for the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association.
“The lobsters moulted early and that usually means a big fall for us. Our fishermen are expecting a top quality, hard shell lobster in LFA 35 this season.”
Up until Nov. 13, when LFAs 36, 37 and 38 open, LFA 35 is the only lobster fishery open in Canada.
“We land around 90 per cent select lobsters,” said Sproul.
“A huge proportion of the catch is select lobsters, but its never returned back to us in the price. We’re the only source for fresh lobster out of the ocean in Canada and we deserve to see a price that reflects that and reflects the high proportion of selects.”
Bait prices and fresh bait supply are a concern going into the season.
“Bait prices have been climbing and climbing,” said Sproul. “Everything is costing more. Fuel, boats… the only thing not costing more is lobster at the wharf side. We’re still catching lobsters at a price we were paid 20 years ago, but we’re making up for it in quantity. Regulators and people responsible for pre-harvest conditions are going to have to examine price control in the lobster industry. If they want to maintain a viable industry, we need to see an increase of at least inflation for lobsters.”
Leading up to the season opening, the summer of 2018 “has been a good summer for sales,” said Leo Muise, executive director for the Nova Scotia Seafood Alliance.
“Helped by the Chinese tariffs on U.S. lobster and dealers gaining more experience with CETA, sales have been steady,” he said.
“All-in-all it’s a pretty normal lead up to the fall season,” said Muise. “That is not to say there isn’t uncertainty heading into the fall. Although we are not anticipating major changes in the NAFTA deal, until it is finalized no one can be certain. Just two months ago no one was anticipating the China/U.S. trade war would affect Maine dealers like it has. Short-term, the implications of the trade dispute between our two largest customers has been a benefit to some Canadian suppliers, however long term the implications are uncertain and concerning.”
Muise said the Stanfield International Airport and the Gateway facility have worked hard the last number of months to find additional space on flights to Europe and Asia. “There is an increased emphasis in the live market favouring the higher quality and larger live product,” he said.
As far as shore prices in LFA 35, a lot will depend on the size and quality of the catch, said Muise.
“The holding facilities are not as full as they were this time last year, so presumably dealers will be looking to resupply their stock. Labour issues continue to challenge the processing side of the business and their ability to take large numbers of process grade product will be affected by the number of employees available to clear the pulses in supply that can happen.”