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Gear coming ashore as 2018-2019 lobster season draws to a close May 31 in southwestern NS


SOUTHWESTERN, NS – The gear is coming ashore.

Lobster fishermen in southwestern Nova Scotia are landing traps, buoys, rope and anchors by the boatload this week as May 31 marks the end of the six-month lobster season.

The season opened on Dec. 1 after a five-day weather delay for fishermen in Lobster Fishing Areas 33 and 34, with a record opening shore price of $7 a pound that jumped to $9 by mid-December, peaked at $11 in April, and is expected to close at $7.

Coils of rope were offloaded from the Adele Evangeline at the Falls Point wharf in Woods Harbour as the southwestern Nova Scotia lobster fishery was winding down.  The season closes on May 31.  KATHY JOHNSON PHOTO
Coils of rope were offloaded from the Adele Evangeline at the Falls Point wharf in Woods Harbour as the southwestern Nova Scotia lobster fishery was winding down. The season closes on May 31. KATHY JOHNSON PHOTO

Bernie Berry, president of the Coldwater Lobster Association said overall if it ends up being a decent season, it'll be mostly because of the price. The price was important as catches do appear to be down, according to what fishermen have been reporting.

“We had a record opening price and then it went to $9…the price was very good on the shore and I think that tended to offset the decrease in the catch," said Berry.

"Anecdotally it sounds like the catch is going to be off by 15 to 18 per cent,” he said, noting it’s really hard to predict what the final landings will weigh in at where the fishing area is so large.

Lobster Fishing Area (LFA) 33 stretches from Eastern Passage, Halifax County to Baccaro, Shelburne County and LFA 34 covers an area of Baccaro, Shelburne County to Burn’s Point, Digby County and includes all of Yarmouth County.

Weather-wise, the season “has been very harsh” Berry said. “I tend to think the number of fishing days are down for most guys."

“It hasn’t been a very good spring,” said Kevin Ross, president of Brazil Rock 33/34 lobster fishermen’s association. “It’s been hard weather. The water’s cold. Everything’s late this year. There’s been mostly low catches pretty well everywhere. A few boats are getting some but the landings are down a lot overall.”

The shore price has helped.

“If you caught less and got more it evened itself out,” said Ross.

Lobster traps are coming ashore this week, including in Yarmouth County, as the lobster season in southwestern NS and the province's south shore comes to a close on May 31. CARLA ALLEN PHOTO
Lobster traps are coming ashore this week, including in Yarmouth County, as the lobster season in southwestern NS and the province's south shore comes to a close on May 31. CARLA ALLEN PHOTO

Both Ross and Berry said fishermen are seeing good signs of stock recruitment in their catches.

“There’s good signs of small lobster,” said Berry. “The pots are coming up full of shorts and there’s lots of seeders around. That bodes well for the years to come.”

Undersized and berried lobsters (lobsters carrying eggs) are returned to the water.

Market-wise, the winter of 2019 “turned out to be challenging for the shore-based lobster sector in Nova Scotia,” said Leo Muise, executive director Nova Scotia Seafood Alliance.

“Prices paid at the wharf were high and customers are not always able to pay what we are asking. Especially for the lower grade product," he said.

"The high prices were especially difficult for the lobster processors. The weather did not always co-operate and high winds at times kept the harvesters ashore and airplanes delayed," he said. "Seasonal openings were also delayed on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia, the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Southern Newfoundland this spring, due to weather.”

Muise said geo-political events are never far from the minds of seafood exporters.

“Events in the U.S., Asia, and Europe often cause huge swings in the market place. The trade war between the U.S. and China has given our sellers an advantage over our U.S. colleagues, at least for the time being," Muise said. "The disagreement between Canada and China over the detention of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou is a concern. And, the lack of clarity over Brexit and the EU presents us with a big unknown.”

According to statistics from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), 7,979,736 kgs of lobster were landed in LFA 33 in 2018, with a landed value of $133,535,055.

In LFA 34, 18,932,200 kgs of lobster were caught, worth $297,620,492 wharf-side in 2018.

Lobster is the largest single commodity by both value and volume shipped from Halifax Stanfield International Airport, coming in at 11,495 metric tonnes with a value of $215.7 million in 2018. The total seafood export value out of Halifax international in 2018 was $232 million.

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