P.E.I. lobster fishermen request season extension to offset delayed start

The P.E.I. Fishermen's Association has asked the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for an extension to the spring lobster season, to help offset the two week delay to the start of the season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lower prices, reduced markets 'doesn't make for good math'

Charlie McGeoghegan, chair of the P.E.I. Lobster Marketing Board, says most fishermen voted in favour of an extension to the season. (Submitted)

The P.E.I. Fishermen's Association (PEIFA) has asked for a four-day extension to the spring lobster season.

The PEIFA made the request to the federal fisheries minister and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) on June 16 to help offset the delayed start to the season.

The season started two weeks late because of COVID-19 and concerns over the safety of crews on boats, and questions over the demand and markets for lobster.

Once the season did start, many processing plants had problems finding enough workers and buyers at the wharf, which put limits on how much lobster they would take each day. 

According to the P.E.I. Lobster Marketing Board, about 200 fishermen have been dealing with quotas for most of the season, and prices are down substantially this year — most fishermen have been getting between $3.50 and $4.50 a pound for their catch.

"It doesn't make for good math, that's for sure," said Charlie McGeoghegan, the board's chair, adding that fishermen were hoping for about a dollar more a pound.

'Big hit to everybody's bottom line'

He said for some P.E.I. fishermen this will be a money-losing season, but most are making a bit of money and would like a few extra days to make up for the delayed start to the season.

Fishermen were delayed heading out to set their lobster traps by two weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

"It's kind of harbour by harbour," said McGeoghegan. "There's some harbours where their fishing grounds die off in June, and it would be no benefit to them, because they usually land their gear at the end of June anyway regardless. For them it probably won't be a help. But for the areas where the fish hang on, it's definitely wanted."

McGeoghegan said the majority of fishermen voted in favour of a four-day extension.

"There'd be a little bit of money to be made but it would be a lot less than say last year, or the last two or three years, just based on the shore price alone. It's a big hit to everybody's bottom line, but fuel costs are down this year, which is a help."

A lobster fisherman ties up his boat in North Rustico. Fishermen hope to hear this week whether a four-day extension to the season will be approved. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Still, McGeoghegan said the season is turning out better than some had feared when the boats headed out.

"As long as we can get back to normal next year I think most guys will be fine," he said.

The spring season is scheduled to end June 30, but the association has asked DFO to push it to July 4.

The group hopes to get an answer from DFO by the end of the week.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Steve Bruce


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