Nova Scotia

Early reports suggest steep decline in lobster catch in southwest N.S.

DFO says water temperature and weather conditions could explain some of the decline, with fishermen reporting lobsters being less active in colder water temperatures.

Fishermen reporting drop of 20 to 50 per cent in lobster fishing areas 33 and 34

Fishermen prepare for Dumping Day, the first day of the lobster fishing season, in Yarmouth on Dec. 1, 2018. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

The lobster fishery in southwest Nova Scotia is only into the second week of its season, but already fishermen are finding a decreased haul compared to last year.

Lobster fishing areas 33 and 34 are the most lucrative in the province, with overall exports of nearly a billion dollars last year.

But the federal Fisheries Department said preliminary reports from fishermen suggest the catch has declined significantly.

"We're hearing anywhere from 20 per cent to 50 per cent, in that range, depending where the area is throughout the lobster fishing areas 33 and 34," said Mark Comley, DFO's acting area director for southwest Nova Scotia.

Comley said water temperature and weather conditions could explain some of the decline, with fishermen reporting lobsters being less active in colder water temperatures. 

"We've heard from fish harvesters that [the water] has been anywhere from six degrees up to 10 degrees colder compared to last year at the beginning of the season."

The fishing season in lobster fishing areas 33 and 34 runs December to May. 

While the beginning of the season is generally the most lucrative time for the fishery, Comley said there is variability year to year, and there is sometimes a profitable period in the spring.

Comley said it's too soon to say for sure how the season will stack up relative to previous years.

"We really need a full six months to get a good picture of how the lobster fishing went as far as catches, and it's very important for DFO to get all the data from year to year."

With files from CBC's Information Morning

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