New Brunswick

'I was driving in lobster,' resident says after Acadian Peninsula storm

Jean Benoit says he never expected to see what he described as 'millions' of lobster washed up on the beach in Val Comeau on the weekend.

Beaches strewn with shellfish after storm surge along New Brunswick's northeast coast

Jean Benoit says he couldn't believe how many lobster washed ashore in Val Comeau after a storm surge. (Jean Benoit/Facebook)

Jean Benoit says he never expected to see what he described as 'millions' of lobsters washed up on the beach in Val Comeau, N.B.,  on Saturday morning.

"I was driving in lobster," he said of his trip to the beach about 10 kilometres from Tracadie-Sheila on the Acadian Peninsula. 

Benoit and his friends routinely check the beach after storms but weren't prepared for what they found New Year's Eve, after Environment Canada warned of a storm surge the day before.

"It was incredible all the lobster that we can get there," Benoit said. "It was amazing. We cannot imagine what the wind can bring us, but it was too much."

The 40-year-old said that after big winds and storm surges, local people often find a few lobsters washed ashore. When he and a friend got to the beach on their all-terrain vehicles, the tide was very low, he said. 

Local people routinely check the beach after a big storm, resident Jean Benoit says. (Jean Benoit/Facebook)
He described seeing lobster, crabs and big clams washed up in stretches of 150 metres, then nothing for a stretch of 300 metres, then more shellfish again.

"We never seen that in our entire lives," he said. "It was incredible. You can imagine how many lobsters — millions maybe of lobster we saw that morning."  

The lobster came in all sizes. Some were female with roe attached, some were alive and some frozen.

Benoit said he and friends tried to throw a lot of them back into the water but the surf kept washing them back to shore. 

Not wanting the shellfish go to waste, Benoit said, he took some home to cook for a special treat. Other people tried to get some as well after he posted pictures on Facebook, but without an all-terrain vehicle, it would be difficult to access the area. 

Shellfish population not affected

Seeing so many lobster washed ashore got Benoit wondering what the spring lobster season would be like for the region, but a federal biologist said beached lobster are a yearly occurrence. 

But Michel Comeau, a lobster biologist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, said a combination of factors can drive lobster and other sea life ashore: "if you have no ice, strong winds — especially if it creates a swell, very large, rolling waves, a surge — and this time of year, because lobster is kind of hibernating right now."

"So if you have all of this together, normally you will have some lobster on the beach." 

Jean Benoit and a few of his friends enjoyed a feed of lobsters he picked up from the beach after a storm surge washed them ashore. (Jean Benoit/Facebook)
Comeau added that the majority of the lobster population is hibernating 30 to 45 metres below the surface. 

As for the large numbers, Comeau said, the lobster population is the largest his department has seen in many years, something he attributes to good conservation practices.

"There's a lot of lobster right now on the bottom, including small ones," he said. "The population itself is quite big." 

Comeau said Fisheries and Oceans has never seen a decline in the lobster catch after a beaching. 

Benoit said that a high tide later on New Year's Eve washed all the shellfish back out, but he and 10 friends enjoyed a good feed of lobster that day.

"I got myself a good lunch," he said. "It's going to be OK."