Lobster season opens on Eastern Shore

Lobster season opens on Eastern Shore

By Joanne Jordan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

ST. MARY'S — Lobster fishers along the Eastern Shore, including in the District of St. Mary’s, dropped their traps on April 19 and pulled up their first catches on April 20.

Even though wharf prices in southwestern Nova Scotia were reported at as high as $18 per pound, especially if the supply was low and the demand high, the opening day price for the tasty crustaceans in this area was $11.50 per pound.

“Since COVID has come and gone the price of lobster has fluctuated by dropping significantly when COVID first hit due to countries shutting down and not being able to move the product through the market,” Hannah Kaiser-MacDonald of Port Bickerton, who is the sixth generation of her family whose business is in the seafood industry, told The Journal.

“Since markets have opened back up, and products are able to be moved, the price varies depending on the quantity being caught. It’s simple supply and demand. The price is so high currently in Nova Scotia because there just wasn’t the quantity being caught that there has been in the past and that drove the price up.”

Several lobster fishers expressed to The Journal that their livelihoods have been impacted by more than just the COVID pandemic and the reduction in the demand for lobster. They also noted the hike in the costs associated with the harvesting of lobster has been significant, something Kaiser-MacDonald confirmed.

“The inflation rate for the fishing expenses have increased tremendously for all industry players from the fishers to the end consumers,” she said.

But still, Kaiser-MacDonald added, supply and demand does indeed have a big influence on prices.

“When other fishing areas open up and the supply is greater, the price is going to drop some. But we expect, with the decent demand, that prices will remain high.”

Several lobster-lovers in the Sherbrooke area told The Journal that their mouth-watering craving for what the 2024 season will bring to their tables cannot be deterred, regardless of price, which is good news for those whose livelihoods depend on a successful season.

The next couple of months will be busy ones for those involved in the lobster fishery in this region, including Kaiser-MacDonald, whose grandfather was a fisherman. Her father – Jason Kaiser – is owner of Kaiser Marine, one of the local pounds where lobsters are stored before they are shipped out by truck to points of sale.

Along with working with her father, she is a buyer. Kaiser-MacDonald and her sister also retail fresh seafood from the back of her truck under the Mermaids Seafood banner.

“We [the pound] supply the fishermen who sell their lobsters to us [with] bait crates and lobster bands.” she explained, “And then, when the fishermen get in each day, we have trucks that go to the wharfs and buy the lobsters and bring them back to the pound and we put them in our tanks to soak before we ship them out to a processing plant.”

Kaiser-MacDonald expressed her appreciation of being part of a team when it comes to the lobster industry, including as a buyer but also as a part of the family business with the lobster pound.

“Without the fisher men and women out there doing the work to bring in the lobster we [Kaiser Marine] wouldn’t be a part of this industry. It’s economically imperative to the families in rural Nova Scotia of a long-standing lobster business,” she said.

Kaiser-MacDonald added, “It means a lot to me to be a hard worker and earn the respect of the fisher men and women, my family, employees, other industry professionals, the community and anyone I come in contact with.

“Taking over the family business has always been a dream of mine. I admire the hard work and dedication; I was lucky enough to watch my Gramps Blair Kaiser and Dad Jason Kaiser as role models. I want nothing more than to make them proud.”

The Journal received information from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in response to an email request for information regarding stocks and hauls in lobster fishing areas (LFAs) 31A – from Whitehead to the Guysborough area (open April 29 – June 30), and 31B – from Whitehead to the Halifax County line (open April 19 – June 20). DFO data for 2022 confirms that stock status was in the healthy zone for both LFAs. Data for 2022-2023 is still being collected and thus far confirms that stock level is above the boundary between the healthy and cautious zones, and fewer numbers are being removed than the established maximum removal rate.

Data collected includes information from mandatory log books of fishers. Based on available logs, landings in the 31A and 31B will not likely reach the highs of 2018 and 2019, but will likely meet or exceed 2021 landings.

“For this season and every season, we hope to see the fisher men and women do great things,” Kaiser-MacDonald said. “We hope catches are plentiful and everyone has a safe season.”

Prior to the opening day of lobster season, many fishing communities hold the blessing of the fleet, with prayers extended for a prosperous season and the well-being and safe-keeping of those heading out to sea. Despite the dangers it is an industry that perseveres and is generational for many families, with the catches that come from cold ocean waters enjoyed locally and internationally as well.

Joanne Jordan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal