Nova Scotia

N.S. lobster fishers feel pinch of rising diesel prices

One commercial fisher says he anticipates fuel bills will be $4,000 to $5,000 higher than last year.

'We can't go back to using the oars like our grandparents did,' says fisherman

A small lobster boat in Riverport, N.S., on the LaHave River. (Robert Short/CBC)

The rising cost of diesel in Nova Scotia has some commercial fishers concerned as they brace for big fuel bills. 

Merrill MacInnis is a lobster fisher in Victoria County. He said the price of diesel is an ongoing conversation in the community, since most fishing boats in his harbour run on diesel. 

"It's going to have a big impact on the profit margin, of course," MacInnis said. "But you need to have it.

"We can't go back to using the oars like our grandparents did. The only option we have is to run the diesel engines. It's all we can do."

Rising prices

Diesel prices continue to climb in Nova Scotia, with a 25 per cent increase in under a week. The minimum price in zone 6, which covers Cape Breton Island, is 255.3 cents per litre. Only a week ago, diesel prices were closer to 200 cents per litre.

MacInnis estimates fishers will be hit with a fuel bill about $4,000 to $5,000 higher compared to the same period last year.

"It'll be a big bill," he said. 

Diesel prices were 260.6 cents per litre on Tuesday at the Irving gas station on George Street in Sydney. (Emily Latimer)

James MacDonald is part owner of Green Oil, a company that services commercial fishing vessels. The majority of their customers are commercial fishers throughout Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

MacDonald has heard from some customers that their fuel expenses have doubled since last year. 

"I spoke with a fella. We were just chatting about his fuel and he was saying that he was burning — and he wasn't a very big boat — burning about $700 a day, which is about double what he burned last year," said MacDonald.

He said smaller boats that don't have huge catches will feel the pinch.

"There's no doubt about it," MacDonald said.

Other expenses on the rise 

It's not just diesel costs weighing on their minds.

Fishers in the community are talking about the rising costs of labour, bait, maintenance and the availability of parts. 

"Everybody's a bit concerned," MacInnis said.

Fishing season opens on the west side of Cape Breton Island on May 15.

Nancy Wadden, president of the Maritime Fishermen's Union Local 6, said fishers will have less disposable income as fuel costs cut into their expenses.

"Right now, we just kind of have to grin and bear it because we have to go fishing and we have to absorb the cost," she said.

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