PEI

'Unknowns are now knowns' as P.E.I. enters 2021 lobster season

P.E.I. is about a week away from the start of another lobster season during the COVID-19 pandemic, and feeling much more comfortable about facing the challenges.

Temporary foreign workers already on the Island, waiting out their quarantine

The lobster industry was scrambling with changes brought on by the pandemic in 2020. (CBC)

P.E.I. is about a week away from the start of another lobster season during the COVID-19 pandemic, and feeling much more comfortable about facing the challenges.

The industry faced uncertainty from every direction last year.

The season was delayed two weeks as public health officials determined how best to keep people safe on the boats and in processing plants. There were delays in the arrival of temporary foreign workers, even questions about whether they could come into the country at all. And with restaurants and cruise ships shut down, processors wondered if there would be anyone buying lobster.

Jerry Gavin, executive director of the Seafood Processors Association, said a year later most of those issues have been worked out.

"A lot of those unknowns are now knowns," said Gavin.

"We've had a year now to adjust to our protocols."

Workers waiting

Protocols both on the boats and in processing plants are now well established and understood, he said, and there has been plenty of time to get the necessary workforce in place.

"Our workers are mostly all in, our temporary foreign workers. We probably have about 240 that are in the central quarantine that, you know, is coordinated by the province," said Gavin.

"They will, most of them will be, out before the start of the season. It looks like our local labour is coming back."

While the quarantine facility is coordinated by the province, the cost is covered by the employers, he said, and the workers are also being paid while they are in quarantine.

Always some unknowns

While markets were concerning last year with the loss of restaurants and cruise ships, retail did come through to pick up some of that loss, said Gavin.

Markets look good for this year, but, pandemic or not, predicting the market is always uncertain.

"When it comes to the market and the actual harvest, those are still really unknowns because you never know from one day to the next what's going to happen," said Gavin.

The spring lobster season starts along the North Shore May 1.

More from CBC News

With files from Island Morning

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