HomeIndustrySecond Early Lobster Season Begins in P.E.I.

Second Early Lobster Season Begins in P.E.I.

Prince Edward Island’s lobster season has begun in Lobster Fishing Area (LFA) 26a earlier than usual for the second year in a row.

The LFA 26a season, which usually starts in early May, kicked off on April 26 for the second year in a row. According to Ian MacPherson, Executive Director of the Prince Edward Island Fishermen’s Association (PEIFA), the intent of starting the season a few days earlier than usual was to avoid the season being extended into July.

“As product inventories have been low at the season start the last few years, it was hoped this would be reflected in a stronger opening day price,” said MacPherson in a written statement to The Navigator.

This early opening, however, did not go as expected in 2023. MacPherson said that PEIFA and many P.E.I. fish harvesters wished for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to push the season ahead until April 29. This issue, according to MacPherson, was put to a vote, but DFO elected to keep the season opening in line with 2023.

“The catches did not meet expectations as the water was colder than anticipated. Catches near the end of the season were stronger than usual, therefore a vote was conducted in 26a asking to return the season start to April 29th this year,” said MacPherson. “On P.E.I., there was 60 per cent support to revert to the later date. Although there were fewer harvesters in Nova Scotia opposing the change, DFO elected not to change the date this year even though it was agreed the date shift would be reviewed after a year… If the start date of 26a is not shifted this year, the PEIFA advocates that the DFO recorded vote process be improved to be standardized, documentable and more transparent.”

In 2023, harvesters were getting between $6.50 to $7 per pound from processors for their catch. In 2021, market-sized lobsters were netting harvesters around $8.50 per pound. This downward trend in prices, according to MacPherson, will only serve to hurt harvesters’ bottom line as inflation continues to put pressure on the cost of operating.

“Each year, the increasing costs of fuel and bait are key factors in the lobster industry,” said MacPherson. “It is critical that these costs are properly reflected in the price paid to harvesters.”

In the runup to the 2024 season, MacPherson pointed out the still-untold effects that Hurricane Fiona may have on the lobster fishery. At the time of the storm, reports of juvenile lobster washing ashore in droves lead some to worry how the storm could affect future generations in the area.

“Although this is the second fishing season post-Tropical Storm Fiona, we must not forget the full impacts of the storm may not be realized for three to five years from now,” said MacPherson. “Catches in some north shore harbours were down significantly in 2023. We are hoping this was a one-year situation and will be watching these areas closely in 2024.”