Why some P.E.I. fishermen caught flak for catching lobsters on Sundays

Fishing for lobsters on Sundays was controversial in North Rustico, P.E.I., where many fishermen depended on their catch for their living.

In 1989, some fishermen were working every day of the week and that upset some of their peers

In 1989, the CBC's Marilyn Robak examines why fishing for lobsters on Sundays was controversial in North Rustico, P.E.I. 2:05

There was only so much lobster to go around, a fact fishermen in North Rustico, P.E.I. were well aware of.

That's part of what upset them when some of their peers started fishing for that lobster on Sundays, a habit other fishermen didn't want to see take hold.

"Over the last couple of years, more and more fishermen are ignoring traditions and are heading out on the Sabbath," the CBC's Marilyn Robak explained to viewers, as she caught them up on the controversy in a report that aired on Midday in June of 1989.

Clarence Gauthier, a local fisherman, said the change in behaviour had been gradual.

What will be left on Monday?

Clarence Gauthier said he believed that those who were going fishing on Sunday were likely doing so because they felt they needed the money to pay their bills. (Midday/CBC Archives)

"It started off with a few boats going and other people that were a little reluctant to go, it didn't take very much to get them going," Gauthier said.

"Then there was others, of course, that felt that they had to have a piece of what was going on. They felt that some of what probably should have been theirs on Monday wasn't going to be there unless they went on Sunday, too."

No day of rest

By 1989, a trend had seen a greater number of fishermen in North Rustico, P.E.I., heading out to look for lobster on Sundays. (Midday/CBC Archives)

Robak said lobster prices had fallen that year, in part because fishermen hauled so much of it out of the sea.

"It's feared Sunday fishing will force the price down even farther," she said. "Plus, these fishermen feel that Sunday should be a day spent with the family."

It seemed that prohibiting Sunday fishing wasn't an option for legal reasons. So, Robak said those who opposed the practice were trying another tack: to get fish processors to turn down lobsters that were caught on that day.

Gauthier said many North Rustico fishermen depended on lobster and it was his view that those who fished seven days a week were probably doing so because they felt they had to.