PEI

Lobster fishermen prepare for fall season after challenging spring

P.E.I. fishermen are getting ready to set out Monday after a challenging spring season due to COVID-19.

'We’re excited to get on the water'

P.E.I. lobster fisherman are preparing for the fall season. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

Prince Edward Island fishermen are getting ready to set out Monday after COVID-19 made the spring season a challenge.

"I'm feeling good about the season," said Peter Hustler, who has been fishing since he was 15. "Everybody has to make an income." 

Demand for lobster plummeted as the pandemic forced restaurants to close earlier this year. The price dropped as low as $3.50 per pound.

The fall fishermen are going to have a great season- Peter Hustler, P.E.I. lobster fisherman

"It hurts, it hurts, and it hurt this spring, too, but I think everything is going to work out," he said.

"I'd like to see the price at $4.50 or $5 … and I believe it might happen."

Hope for high demand

From a producer's perspective, this fall is indeed looking much better than the spring, said Jerry Gavin, executive director of the P.E.I. Seafood Processors Association. 

Earlier this year, travel bans and new COVID-19 safety protocols made it difficult to hire enough workers at processing plants.  

Now, processors are used to the new normal, and students have been brought in to fill many of the job vacancies, Gavin said.

And despite the pandemic, there still appears to be an appetite for lobster. 

"Retail was very strong in the U.S. for lobsters either live lobsters or, you know, frozen products. So that really helped actually." 

Sales of seafood products are up by about 25 percent he said. "So we're kind of hoping that that demand will continue." 

Gavin's optimism is shared by Lee Knox, president of the Prince County Fishermen's Association. 

"What we're hearing from processors is demand is good, the market is pretty clean," said Knox.

The fall season runs until Oct. 11. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

"It feels great," he said. "It's nice that the product is being sold and there is still a big demand.

"We're excited to get on the water."

New obstacles

However, as fishermen keep their fingers crossed for a better outcome this season, Hustler said there are always obstacles.

"This year there were no mackerel," he said. "A lot of frozen bait is going to be used tomorrow.

"Lobsters seem to love fresh bait."

Lobster fishermen in Miminegash spent the day loading their boats with traps to get ready for tomorrow. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

But, with the hope that comes with a new season, the positivity with at least one man stays afloat. 

"The fall fishermen are going to have a great season," said Hustler. "I fish here. I like to see all the fishermen doing good."   

More from CBC P.E.I. 

With files from Travis Kingdon

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