It was a cold, windy and raw spring as May rolled in and lobsters flooded the market with the opening of new LFAs in northeastern New Brunswick, the north coast of P.E.I. and the western shore of Cape Breton Island.
The regions’ top two areas in terms of landings and value — LFA 33-34 — are winding down with closure set for May 31.
The all-important topic along the wharves was of course prices — as predicted they didn’t mirror what happened a year ago when March, 2015 produced prices in the $9 to $12-range. While they held at $8-$9 in LFA 33-34 for most of the month, May came in at $6.25/lb. for markets, at least two dollars less for culls with landings in LFA 34 averaging 400 to 500 pounds per haul.
Windy conditions kept fishing boats in port for most of the month, but prices still plunged as demand faltered globally following the usual rush at Valentine’s Day and the Chinese New Year, which really didn’t happen this year due to a lot of lobsters on the market.
Some of the ‘kept’ lobsters by fishermen lost a lot of money as fishing continued throughout a relatively mild and storm-free winter. And some of these lobster cages experienced high mortalities and a big loss in quality.
The holding of lobsters, plus a mild winter, deflated the expected highs of the two holidays previously mentioned and then demand dropped.
The saving grace for local harvesters was the Canadian dollar. Even though it has gained almost nine cents on its U.S. counterpart, the 20 per cent difference made a huge impact in the marketplace.
Over the winter, the Nova Scotia fisheries department initiated a new program which would see lobster buyers attend courses teaching them how to handle lobsters. This is now a condition of licences to buy or process or ship lobsters. No course, no licence, so the government says.
Gibby d’Entremont owns Nova Finest Fisheries Inc., located at the Dennis Point wharf in Lower West Pubnico, N.S.
He holds no punches when it comes to this course.
“I’ve written the minister twice and asked him to tell me what idiot gave him the idea for such a course and am still waiting for a reply,” he bluntly states.
As far as he knows, nobody from his area has taken the course which will be a yearly thing at $100 a pop. Gibby said it would involve seven people in his company.
“Look. If they need the money that badly I’ll written them a cheque. It’s silly.”
Stirling Belliveau, the fisheries minister under the former NDP government and the elected member for a large slice of the lobster fishing sector in South West Nova, in a letter to a Halifax daily newspaper, termed the course an insult to people who have spent their entire life in the lobster business.
He cited the mess as just another example of the government acting before knowing all the facts.
So there it sits.
Will the government deny processing licences to the key elements of the economic wheel in coastal Nova Scotia or will it back down? Time will tell.