N.S. fishermen using more precise U.S. forecasts take concerns to Environment Canada

The national weather forecaster says it's working with fishermen on Nova Scotia's South Shore to improve forecasting in that area after learning fishermen were using American forecasts.

National weather service has committed to improving forecasts for South Shore fishermen

Fishermen say American forecasts are more detailed, giving hour-by-hour information on wave height, wind direction and speed in a given area. (Canadian Press)

The national weather forecaster says it's working with fishermen on Nova Scotia's South Shore to improve forecasting in that area after learning fishermen were using American forecasts. 

Leland Anthony, warden of the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth, raised concerns about the precision of forecasts from Environment and Climate Change Canada at a recent meeting. 

"[Environment Canada] didn't realize what the fishermen really wanted in the respects of forecasting," Anthony told the CBC's Information Morning

Both Anthony and Lucien LeBlanc, a lobster boat captain and councillor for the Municipality of the District of Argyle, say fishermen in the area are using American forecasts, often from third-party apps like Magic Seaweed, which they say are more precise and easier to use.  

This forecast from the website Magic Seaweed gives very precise information about sea state, wind direction and speed. (magicseaweed.com)

LeBlanc said the American forecasts are more detailed, giving hour-by-hour information on wave height, wind direction and speed in a given area. 

"For a fisherman who needs to make a quick, 24-hour trip in between two storms, you almost need to know at which hour it's going to either start or stop blowing to make your best decision," he said. 

"It's fine, we can use the American models, but it's sort of an insult to the Canadian models in a way."

Anthony believes part of the problem is that the closest Doppler radar station, located in Gore, N.S., is too far away from the South Shore to get the most accurate wind and wave conditions. The second Doppler radar station is located in Marion Bridge, Cape Breton.

Working on making forecasts more precise

Serge Deschamps, speaking for ECCC's Meteorological Service of Canada, said there are discussions about the possibility of moving the radar station in Gore 50 kilometres to the southwest. 

"We are looking with the radar renewal project … looking at the feasibility of doing that and that would improve the coverage in the Yarmouth and southwest Nova Scotia area," he said. 

LeBlanc said fishermen have no problem continuing to use the U.S.-based forecasts — except for a rule that the lobster fishing area 34 advisory committee has. 

The rule is that the beginning of the season, when vessels are the most laden down with gear, can't start if winds of 26 knots or more are forecasted on the Environment Canada forecast.  

"The way that bylaw is written, we definitely need to follow our own Canadian forecasting, so it's important, safety-wise," Lucien said.

Deschamps said the national forecaster is listening. 

"We do strive to get the most accurate forecast out and we are committed to working with the representatives of the fishing community to probably develop better and more better-suited products for their industry," he said. 

Anthony said he was "very pleased" with the outcome of the meeting with Environment Canada and looks forward to helping the department develop better forecasting tools for fishermen. 

Deschamps said the national weather service is also working on revamping its weather information website to make it easier to use, but didn't have a timeline for when it might be completed.

With files from CBC's Information Morning