Island lobster suppers face uncertainty with tourism and fishing seasons in question
'It has a whole ripple effect on the whole economy'
P.E.I.'s lobster supper restaurants say they're unsure of what the season holds, as the COVID-19 pandemic stretches onward.
For those in the intersection of the seafood and tourism industries, two big questions loom: whether there will be a Spring lobster season for P.E.I. and whether restrictions will be lifted on the Confederation Bridge and airport to allow for tourism.
"We're all kind of at a standstill as far as not knowing when things are going to be lifted," said Carl Nicholson, general manager and part owner of New Glasgow Lobster Suppers.
Nicholson said their management team thinks the business will likely being closed for the entire month of May in order to maintain physical distancing and flatten the curve.
"Mother's Day is one of our busiest days of the year, but one of the reasons it's our busiest day of the year is it's an opportunity for families to take the mothers out and treat them and have that interaction at the table," he said.
"We tend not to be, you know, a place that people want to take out and dine in the car with a lobster supper."
Nicholson said July and August are the restaurant's busiest months, and they would need to be open then to salvage part of the season. Even if there isn't a tourism season, he said they would open for Islanders if public health measures allowed for it.
"We've always had good support from Islanders over the years so we think, you know, they would continue to support us," he said.
"We have two dining rooms, so we can take out tables, we can spread it out so that people are further apart."
Fishing season in the air
A final decision has not been made on whether P.E.I.'s spring lobster season will proceed as planned on April 30. The P.E.I. Fisherman's Association is surveying its members on whether the season should go ahead after other licensed fishing areas in the region delayed their seasons.
"It's very hard to discuss and plan any of those things right now," said Forbes MacPherson, who owns Fisherman's Wharf lobster supper in North Rustico.
"We kind of have to wait and see what that decision is for the lobster fishermen and then we'll start to make plans after that.
"Any and every option is on the table and we're looking at everything from all angles.... It's just so difficult."
Both MacPherson and Nicholson said they have loyal staff who return year after year, but with so much uncertainty over what the summer will look like, it's challenging for them to offer employment.
Nicholson said that even if they open to Islanders only, it likely won't be enough to salvage his year.
"There's not as many people coming in the doors and not buying as many lobster or mussels or you know the staff aren't getting as many hours," he said. "It has a whole ripple effect on the whole economy."
The province released its modelling numbers on Tuesday, and even with continuing strict public health measures, P.E.I. could see nine deaths and 120 hospitalizations by June 1.
There are still 25 cases of COVID-19 in the province, with 23 of those cases considered recovered.
COVID-19: What you need to know
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Common symptoms include:
But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.
Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.
What should I do if I feel sick?
Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.
How can I protect myself?
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.
- Practise physical distancing.
More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.
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With files from Angela Walker