Fall lobster season

Terry MacLean, captain of the fishing vessel Cheryl and Terry, prepares rope and buoys in the week leading up to the 2019 lobster fishing season. This year, the season is set to begin on August 8, and predictions for both prices and catches have been positive. Jillian Trainor photo

Hopes for the fall lobster season are high as fishers in Lobster Fishing Area (LFA) 25 prepare for opening day on August 8.

In West Point, Terry MacLean, captain of the boat Cheryl and Terry, has been going over his traps, tying on rope and buoys, making sure everything is ready to go. He estimates getting ready for the season takes about a week.

One of the hopes for this season is catches stay the course in terms of numbers.

“We’re all happy with catches,” said Mr MacLean. “We’ve been fortunate, catches have been decent here the last four or five years.”

While catches have been good, there has been some concern about whether or not the high temperatures this summer will have any kind of effect on either the lobsters or the season itself.

Lee Knox, president of the Prince County Fishermen’s Association, doesn’t think the high temperatures will have any effect, noting that catches in the 2018 season were higher than those of the 2017 season, even with a carapace size increase.

“This year it’s hot again, but I don’t think it was any hotter than it was last year,” he said. “Our catches were overall higher than the year before, even with the two millimetre increase, so we should see a substantial increase (in catches) this year.”

Over the last several years, there’s been a steady increase in carapace size for LFA 25. In 2016, fishers saw an increase from 72 to 73 millimetres, followed by an increase of two millimetres in 2017. In 2018 another increase went into effect, going from 75 to 77 millimetres. This year that number is staying at 77.

Because of the carapace size increases, some fishers have been throwing back a lot of shorts, but this is regarded as being beneficial to the industry because it helps keep the industry healthy.

As always, price is a concern for fishers. Last year, fishers in LFA 25 received $4.50 for canners and $5 for markets, but after the first week that price dropped to $4.25 and $4.75, respectively.

“It used to go up some after about a month, but last year it dropped,” said Mr MacLean. “Supply and demand is what they say. It affects the bottom line, for sure.”

Mr Knox said he’s been hearing good news regarding prices, noting the indications right now are that there’s very little product in the market, and demand is quite high. He said fishers are very hopeful for good prices.

“There’s always concerns, but hopefully that doesn’t happen this year,” he said. “There were price adjustments later on, and there’s price adjustments through the winter months, so the price ended up favourable over all. It could have been a little higher, but hopefully that doesn’t happen this year. Hopefully it goes the opposite way.”

Both Mr MacLean and Mr Knox want fishers to have a great year, with good catches and decent prices, but safety is also on the mind of those in the industry.

During the 2018 season, the Kyla Anne, a 40-foot fishing vessel capsized on Sept. 18. Of the three fishers on board, only crew member Tanner Gaudet made it safely to shore. The body of captain Glen DesRoches was discovered Sept. 23, and the body of crew member Moe Getson was discovered the next day.

“It was pretty close to home,” said Mr MacLean. “We all want to make a living, but as safely as possible.”

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