Between the end of June and early August, the lobster season will close for the majority of inshore lobster fishing areas (LFAs) in eastern Canada.
For most, the season has been nothing to brag about.
“Nobody is doing too much. It’s been a pretty meager start to the season,” said Colin Sproul, president of the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association, who’s members fish in LFA 35.
LFA 35 has a split season: Oct. 14 to Dec. 31 and the last day of February through to July 31.
“We’re off to a slow start this year,” said Sproul. “The catches are down, the prices are down. It’s not a very good start.”
At the end of June with a month to go, the shore price was $8/pound in LFA 35.
The fall portion of the season was “terrible,” added Sproul. “Landings are down compared to two years ago. The fall before (2021) was the best year ever.”
In Prince Edward Island the seasons have “been going reasonably well from a processor’s point of view,” said Jerry Gavin, executive director of the P.E.I. Seafood Producers Association. “We were able to handle everything that came in.”
Gavin estimates P.E.I. processors process between 60 to 70 per cent of lobsters landed on the island, with the remainder going to processors in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
Things are also going well from a labour perspective, said Gavin, with a sufficient number of temporary foreign workers arriving on time.
Gavin said close to 500 temporary foreign workers are now permanent residents in the western part of the province. “Most work in seafood. We have three seafood processors in West Prince,” he said.
Temporary foreign workers “are critical to our operations,”said Gavin. “Some plants have 70 to 80 per cent temporary foreign workers. Others have more of a mix of locals and temporary foreign workers. We’re always going to need a mix. Locals are the most cost-effective workforce because they live here,” adding with more and more temporary foreign workers wanting to become permanent residents, “it’s been great for us. They’re buying cars, they are in our grocery stores spending money, buying homes, in our churches.”
From a marketing perspective, Gavin said there is always one sensitivity especially seeing inventory. “Is it going to move later in the year? But for the most part things have been going really, really well.”
As for landings, Gavin estimated overall they will be close to last year’s catches, maybe down a little. “In LFA 24, the central part, catches were down but were really strong on the northern part of the island like Tignish and Alberton.”
North Atlantic right whales were an issue for LFA 24 fishers in late May, with DFO closing waters deeper than 60 feet to lobster fishing from May 18 to June 2.
Pricewise, Northumberland Strait fishermen received $9 to $9.50/pound for a few days in April, then it dropped to $7 to $ 7.50 the first week of May, where it stayed until mid-June when it went to $7.75 to $8.25/pound.