Nova Scotia

Split season rejected for lobster fishermen

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has rejected a plan to shorten the lobster fishing season in southwest Nova Scotia.
Federal officials have rejected a plan to shorten the lobster fishing season in southwest Nova Scotia. (CBC)

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has rejected a plan to shorten the lobster fishing season in southwest Nova Scotia.

Fishermen in lobster fishing area 34 had endorsed the idea of a two-month break in January and February, to try to reduce the glut of lobster on the market and hopefully drive up prices when catches resume.

Of the licence holders in the fishing area, 371 holders had voted in favour of a split season and 304 licence holders had voted against. More than 200 licence holders did not vote.

Ashton Spinney, the chair of the LFA 34 management board, said Friday that federal officials believed there wasn't enough time between the vote and the start of the fishing season to make a proper decision about the issue.

The lobster season is scheduled to open Monday, weather permitting.

Spinney told CBC News that although the split season won't happen this year, it could still happen in the future.

"We don't want anyone to catch less lobsters but we want to be able to get them on the market and that's the slowest time in our season. Right then, from mid-January to mid-March, is our slow time," he said.

"If we can create a void there, that will help the buyers to get rid of that inventory that's built up in December, then it's a win-win for everybody."

Spinney said lobster fishermen have been expressing concern over the price per pound they are expecting to receive on their catches.

He said prices are expected to be $3 or $3.50 per pound, based on the prices of lobster fisheries elsewhere.

"It'll be ruination," said Spinney.

"Our cost to land that product is right close to the $4 market. That's just to pay our expenses. That's no profit, that's nothing. That's just paying what it costs you to go out and do the work."

Fishermen reminded to be safe

Meanwhile, representatives from the Workers' Compensation Board of Nova Scotia were on a wharf in Eastern Passage, reminding fishermen to stay safe ahead of the start of the season.

"It's important that captains take it seriously and that they understand. We're not here to educate today, we're here just to raise awareness," said Stuart MacLean, the acting CEO of the Workers' Compensation Board of Nova Scotia.

"It is a day where we've historically seen a lot of claims and it's not really the claims, but the hardships that go along with them that we're concerned about."

According to the board, nearly 400 people in the fishing industry were injured on the job last year. Of those people, about 150 of them suffered serious injuries that resulted in time lost from work.

In the last three years, 23 Nova Scotians working in the business have died.

John Silver, who has been fishing lobster for 40 years, said common sense has to be first and foremost when working on the water.

"Just watching out for your buddy in the boat, watching what you do, little things like that, saves trouble," he said Friday.

With the start of the season around the corner, MacLean said the board is hoping for the safest season possible.

"We need people to be paying particular attention to their personal protective equipment, we'd like them to wear life-jackets," he said.

"If they could wear that while they're working and really have safety first and foremost when they look at the conditions that they're dealing with."