Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia lobster fisheries shut down, some tied up in P.E.I.

The lobster fishery in Nova Scotia has come to a standstill, and some P.E.I. fishermen have been told to tie up their boats.

Nova Scotia fishermen told too much lobster, P.E.I. fishermen told too few workers

Lobster boats in Nova Scotia will remain tied up this week because processors and lobster pounds are at near capacity. In P.E.I., a shortage of workers has shut down the fisheries there. (Submitted by Rhonda Gallant)

The lobster fishery in Nova Scotia has come to a standstill, and some P.E.I. fishermen have been told to tie up their boats.

In Nova Scotia, lobster pounds and plants are at near capacity. P.E.I. fishermen have been put on quotas or told not to fish at all.

Fishermen in the those provinces are hearing different reasons for the tie-up. Nova Scotia fishermen have been told there is too much lobster, and no one is buying until later this week, forcing them to hold off on fishing during the short spring season.

P.E.I. fishermen are being told there is a shortage of labour in the processing plants.

In Pictou County and on P.E.I., the season opened in early May and will end in another 30 days.

Ronnie Heighton, who fishes out of Cape John, N.S., just found out Monday that his buyer is shutting him down.

"We were blindsided. Never seen this coming at all," he said.

"We've only got two months. We're not like sou' west Nova Scotia where they have six months to fish. We only have two months here and every day we lose is quite substantial to our overall yearly income."

Heighton says the shutdown this week will cost him about $4,000.

The buyers are plugged up with lobsters.- Walter Bruce, North Lake, P.E.I., fisherman

Jerry Amirault of the Lobster Processors Association says there's just nowhere to put live lobster this week.

"The system is clogged," he said.

"The supply comes in erratically versus the demand. So you'll be getting lobsters in May, when after Mothers' Day, there's no significant spike in demand. Your supplies will exceed your demands, which causes everything in the pipeline to back up." 

Amirault says the buyers' decisions to hold off for a few days mean fishermen from Pictou County, Cape Breton and all the way around to the Eastern Shore won't be able to sell their catches.

"Simply, that the catches have been overwhelming. Day after day of good fishing weather. Catches in some areas that have essentially doubled," he said.

Until now, fishermen in Nova Scotia have been getting about $4.50 per pound at the wharf.

Labour shortage

The story is a little different on P.E.I., where processors are telling fishermen they aren't able to keep up with the catch because there aren't enough workers in the plants.

Walter Bruce of North Lake, P.E.I., was on a 500-pound (220 kg) quota on Saturday, and told not to fish Monday or Tuesday. His buyer told him he would take 650 pounds (300 kg) Wednesday.

"The buyers are plugged up with lobsters," said Bruce.

"The fellow I sell to, anyhow, says his major reason is … he can't get the workers to work in the plant."

Bruce said he heard some temporary foreign workers for the plants are being held up by immigration problems.

Dennis King of the P.E.I. Seafood Processors Association confirms labour shortages are a problem for P.E.I. processing plants. King said he would talk to members of his association Tuesday morning, after which he would have more to say.