The 3rd Annual Fisher’s Awards in Tignish were handed out on March 13.
Due to COVID-19 public health restrictions, this year the organizing committee decided not to go ahead with the banquet portion of the awards. Instead, they visited each winner, presented them with their trophy and then posted the photos on social media.
Ruby Arsenault said the committee, which also includes Paulette Arsenault, Tina Richard and Hal Perry, received around 40 nominations in total spread out over the nine categories.
Captain of the Year went to a fisherman who is heavily involved with the industry. Kenneth LeClair sits on many boards. He’s the current president of the Western Gulf Fishermen’s Association, president of the Western Herring Board and Mackerel Board, a board of director for Royal Star Fisheries, director for the Tignish Harbour Authority, vice-chair for Lobster PEI and vice-president for the district with the PEI Fishermen’s Association. Along with volunteering to sit on boards, he’s also very involved with his community. Mr LeClair helps with the West Prince Christmas Hampers campaign by gathering turkeys and delivering hampers to people’s homes. He also donates to the West Prince Caring Cupboard.
Isaac Callaghan, from Seacow Pond, was presented with a new award, Youth Captain of the Year. Mr Callaghan, who is in his early 20s, fishes out of Tignish.
“We were so impressed by his nomination, we entered an extra category because Isaac is a phenomenal young man who’s made fishing his livelihood,” said Ms Arsenault. “He’s just in the beginning stages and it’s kind of hard to compare him to the Kenneth LeClairs, so we thought why not put in an extra category.”
Dustin Hackett won 2nd Mate of the Year. He’s fished with Edmund and Brenda Pitre for most of his fishing career. Mr Hackett was described as a phenomenal and loyal employee that goes above and beyond to make sure everything runs smoothly on the boat.
“He was very honoured to be nominated and accepted his award with much pride,” said Ms Arsenault.
The family of Wilbert Hogan accepted his Lifetime Achievement Award in his memory. Mr Hogan had won the award twice previously as the longest living fisherman in the Tignish area. The committee wanted to honour Mr Hogan one more time after he passed away this January.
Mr Hogan’s granddaughter, Tori Hogan, was also presented with the Future Fisher’s Award.
“She was off to university the last few years and came home in the spring and summer to fish and really enjoyed it and decided that was something she really wants to do,” explained Ms Arsenault. “Her captain and crew said she was excellent onboard the boat and kept up with everything. That she was very enthusiastic, a hard worker and she is actually going to be fishing in her grandfather’s boat this spring.”
Mark Arsenault won the Community Spirit Award.
He’s been a board member of Royal Star Fisheries, involved with both the parishes of St Simon and St Jude and Palmer Road and couple times of year he donates lobster suppers to the Tignish Seniors Home. When the fishing vessel Kyla Anne sank off North Cape in September 2018, Mr Arsenault wrote a song about the tragedy and performed the song when Tignish lit up their Lobster Trap Tree for the first time.
“Mark has been very involved with the community,” said Ms Arsenault.
Ms Arsenault said the Community Spirit Award is the category that receives the most nominations each year.
“It blows our minds how people have gotten nominated for this award every year,” she said. “We have so many volunteers and everybody gives back to their community so much. Just goes to show how community originated people are here.”
Joan Wedge is the administrator for L&S Marketing Ltd in Tignish and she was presented with the Supportive Role in the Industry award.
“Her nomination came with many praises,” said Ms Arsenault. “She goes above and beyond her duty to help all the fishermen in the area.”
Captain Ernie Getson and his first mate Devon Hacket were recognized with the Valor Award after safely towing back to port a fellow fisherman’s boat that was experiencing mechanical issues the same day the Kyla Anne sank in September 2018.
It was a rough day out at sea and the rescued boat was taking on some water. The captain of the other vessel called Mr Getson for some advice because he couldn’t get his boat to start.
“Ernie and Devon quickly jumped on board their boat and went out to sea to haul their friends home to safety,” said Ms Arsenault. “They all have each other’s backs out there and it’s just nice to recognize they do such nice things for each other.”
Sharon McRae has been fishing since she was a child. She was rewarded with the Female Fisher of the Year. Ms Arsenault said with Ms McRae it’s a family affair, fishing with her brothers, before that with her father.
Lastly, Lorne Doyle was rewarded with 1st Mate of the Year.
“Just a hardworking soul that always makes life a lot easier for his captain,” said Ms Arsenault. “He’s highly regarded around the harbour.”
Ms Arsenault wants to encourage everyone to nominate someone for next year’s award ceremony.
“When we drove into people’s homes on Saturday, there was tears, there was hugs, families gathered, seniors sat in cars with their masks on,” she said. “It’s such a beautiful thing to witness how humble these individuals were to nominated by their peers.”