DFO buys back 20 lobster licenses

The lobster season opens in Western Cape Breton on April 30 with 20 fewer fishermen.

The lobster season opens in Western Cape Breton on April 30 with 20 fewer fishermen.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is buying back 20 licenses — nine in 26b North and 11 in 26b South.

Fishermen say it's become a struggle to make money in the lobster business.

"Not only difficult, they've been aggravating and stressful," said Leonard LeBlanc, the head of the Gulf Nova Scotia Fishermen's Coalition, describing the last few years in the lobster fishery.

On April 1, the license buybacks were included in a $1.7-million agreement that was signed between the DFO and the Coalition.

It was part of the federal department's $50-million, five-year Atlantic Lobster Sustainability Measures program.

LeBlanc said some fishermen are giving up their licenses because they can make more money working out west, others are retiring.

Each of those getting out will receive $185,000 for their lobster license.

LeBlanc said those who stay have other ways to make up for low lobster prices.

"Most of us have access to that lucrative snow crab fishery in area 19, kind of subsidizing our lobster income right now, so it's a great help," said Leblanc.

He said fewer fishermen means more lobster to go around. He also hopes for a slight rebound in prices this year.

Cape Breton lobster landings were up in 2010, but prices were on the low side, starting around $3.75, and eventually reaching $4.50 by the time the season ended in June.

Meanwhile, in Eastern Cape Breton, the lobster fishery opens in mid-May, but there's no licence buyout for those fishermen.

An official with a fishermen's group said the federal government did not make a similar package available because the area is not considered as dependent on the lobster fishery.