P.E.I. lobster fishermen load up for setting day

Lobster fishermen at many Prince Edward Island harbours were busy getting their boats, traps and crew ready for the start of the spring season, which begins Monday.

'One of my busiest days, stressful days, my exciting days of the year,' says 22-year fishing veteran

Boats loaded up with lobster traps can be seen in Malpeque Harbour. (John Robertson/CBC)

Lobster fishermen at many Prince Edward Island harbours were busy getting their boats, traps and crew ready for the start of the spring season Monday.

The tradition of the 6 a.m. start and the busy day of getting all the traps in the water for the first time each year is known as setting day.

At Malpeque Harbour, on the northern part of the Island, it was a hive of activity Sunday as fishermen worked to get ready.

The Gulf of St. Lawrence region is divided into different lobster fishing areas (LFAs) with L24 covering a section of ocean north of P.E.I. and L26 mostly between Nova Scotia and P.E.I. to the south and east.

Getting ready for setting day is a busy time for fishermen. That calls for many hands to help lighten the load.

"Tomorrow is setting day," said Ronnie Bigelow, a fisherman of 22 years and captain of Hannah and the Boys II.

Lobster traps are being loaded on fishing boats in advance of the first day of the season. (John Robertson/CBC)

"One of my busiest days, stressful days, my exciting days of the year."

Much of Sunday was spent baiting traps and loading them on the boat for the first day of the season.

Bigelow had a crew of family to pitch in to help the work get done. His son, Logan, came up from his studies at UPEI to lend a hand to get the boat ready for setting day, a tradition that started awhile back.

Ronnie Bigelow, captain of 'Hannah and the Boys II', says he has been a fisherman for 22 years. (John Robertson/CBC)

"Well, I'm 26 now and so [starting] when I was six years old," Logan said.

"I was here as early as possible, I remember I would come on the boat instead of going to school some days, I would be six, seven years old, doing what I could which wasn't a whole lot but I was here, yeah."
Logan Bigelow is taking a weekend break from UPEI to help his father get his boat Hannah and the Boys II ready for setting day.

The crew has extra preparations to make this year as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has added new management measures in an effort to protect the North Atlantic right whales.

The rules are to reduce the amount of rope floating on the surface, with the use of a sink line and attaching 6 traps to the same rope to minimize the chance of entanglement.

There will also be requirements to report any missing fishing gear, or sightings of live whales.

Fishermen will also be using new measurements to determine which lobsters they can keep and which ones need to go back into the ocean, as DFO has increased the minimum size of lobster carapace.

New DFO regulations have been set out to reduce the amount of fishing rope floating in the water to minimize chances of entanglement with marine animals. (John Robertson/CBC)

For Bigelow, the changes in regulations are fine as he understands why the measures have been put in place.

"It's good," he said. "A lot of the fishermen on the Island were six trap bunches. Sink line? No, no harm. Size has gone up some but it's conservation. No, I'm okay with it."
Lobster fishing begins for some regions on Monday. (John Robertson/CBC)

There is also a new measure that will impact P.E.I. fishermen if a right whale is sighted in an area of a LFA.

Fishermen would have 48 hours to remove traps from the area and it will be closed for 15 days following the sighting.

The LFAs around Prince Edward Island have not been traditional areas to see right whales, but there is concern that climate change will impact the endangered whales' travel routes.

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About the Author

John Robertson

Video journalist

John Robertson is a multi-platform journalist based out of Charlottetown. He has been with CBC News for more than a decade, with stints in Nunavut, Edmonton and Prince Edward Island. Twitter @CBCJRobertson Instagram @johnrobertsoncbc