Weather permitting, thousands of lobster fishermen in southwestern Nova Scotia will be heading to sea on November 29, marking the start of the six-month lobster fishery in lobster fishing areas (LFA) 33 and 34.
“I think fishermen are optimistic. The market appears to be strong even with COVID-19,” said Tommy Amirault, president of the Coldwater Lobster Association.
“I know there is a concern with the price of bait, the price of traps, the price of rope. I could go on and on and on about things fishermen are concerned with,” said Amirault.
“Fishermen are a pretty hardy bunch. They’re an optimistic bunch. It takes a lot to get fishermen down. Most fishermen are optimistic and not afraid to put their head down and if they’ve got to work a little harder, they work a little harder. It’s just one of those things.”
Last year, the season opening was delayed in LFA 34 by nine days due to weather but record shore prices throughout the season helped make up for it. Last season the shore price opened at $7 to $7.25/pound, then went to $8 where it stayed until late January. From there it climbed to a high of $15, then steadied to the $12, $13 range until late April, when it dropped to $10, $9, then to $8, $8.25 where it stayed until the season closed on May 31.
“Even with the delay last year, I think the season was fairly successful for most people,” said Amirault. “I know it was harder for the inshore boats than for the offshore boats when the weather would be worse later in the season and the season shorter, but I think overall it was a fairly successful season.”
Amirault said the strong price “surprised a lot of people. Fishermen were happy with the price. They felt the market was strong enough to handle the volume coming ashore and the price, possibly once COVID-19 goes by, the price will get higher.”
Throughout the summer and fall, record shore prices have continued in other LFA commercial fisheries in the Atlantic provinces.
“All in all, the outlook for the fall lobster seasons is optimistic,” said Leo Muise, executive director of the Nova Scotia Seafood Alliance.
Going into the opening of the fall lobster seasons, “inventories of live lobster are temporarily lower than normal because most product was sold rapidly this summer,” said Muise.
“The members of the Nova Scotia Seafood Alliance, which deal in lobster, are anxiously awaiting the fall opening of LFA 35 followed by LFAs 33 and 34. What will take place in the marketplace will largely be dependent on the level and quality of supply as well as the intensity of demand in key market countries. All things considered, our member companies in the Nova Scotia Seafood Alliance are optimistic for the months ahead.”
Finding seasonal workers during peak times in the industry has been a challenge for a few years now and appears to be getting more demanding as time advances, said Muise.
“The need to provide everyone with as safe a working environment as possible has required massive changes to the structure of most facilities and added to the complications,” he said.
Muise said the Alliance, “through our Atlantic Fisheries Fund program and with the investments made by many member companies, is working with our membership upgrading the technology related to the efficient production of high-quality product and to ease the labour challenges.”
According to preliminary statistics from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), in 2019/20, a combined 26,195 tonnes of lobster were landed by LFA 33 and 34 licence holders, generating a landed value of approximately $451 million, accounting for 60 per cent of the total inshore lobster landings in the Maritimes region.
There are 1,662 license holders in LFA 33 (Eastern Passage to Baccaro, Shelburne County) and LFA 34 (Baccaro, Shelburne County to Burn’s Point Digby County).