P.E.I. lobster season delayed by weather, need for dredging

·3 min read
Malpeque fishermen were busy prepping their boats on Wednesday as the channel continues to be dredged.  (Nicola MacLeod/CBC - image credit)
Malpeque fishermen were busy prepping their boats on Wednesday as the channel continues to be dredged. (Nicola MacLeod/CBC - image credit)

No date has yet been set for opening P.E.I.'s spring lobster fishery in LFAs 24 and 26A.

The season was originally set to open on Saturday.

"Adverse weather, specifically strong winds forecast for much of the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence up until at least the weekend, prevent the opening of the lobster fisheries," said the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in a statement to CBC News.

"Dredging is required at various harbours due to the natural accumulation of sand. Recent high winds have created challenging conditions and delayed dredging operations at some P.E.I. harbour locations."

The North Lake and Malpeque harbours still require dredging, which is the process of clearing sand, seagrasses or other debris so boats can clear the channel. DFO said it is hopeful contractors will be able to finish a simple passage before the start of the season.

"If the tide is reasonable and the weather conditions are favourable, I'm sure we can squeak out over it," said Chris Wall, who has fished out of Malpeque for more than 30 years.

"Weather is something that we always watch and talk about on P.E.I. anyway, but you do have to pay more attention to it, especially when you're going with a fully laden boat ... For some people, it's the first time out of the harbour for the year because it hasn't been fit to leave otherwise."

Fishers in Malpeque say the channel has been difficult for years and have called for a new wharf.

I'd love to see a start of at least $10 a pound - Bethany McCarthy, boat captain

But Wall remains optimistic it will be a good season.

"Yes, fuel is up, bait is up, but the price of lobsters is up too," he said.

"It is what it is. You can't change things. And if you're healthy and enjoy what you're doing, I guess you have your money made anyway."

The veteran fisherman said he expects to get between $8 and $9 a pound for his catches.

Lobster prices paid to fishermen have plunged between 37 and 42 per cent in Nova Scotia this month.

The decline, from $17.50 a pound on April 3 to $10 and $11 on Monday, comes as the lobster fishery is opening in more locations across the region, including P.E.I.

"At the end of the day, I'm going fishing regardless of what the price is," Wall said.

'Down to the crunch'

Some Island fishermen are facing a unique set of obstacles due to the pandemic.

Fishermen are still contending with workers in COVID-19 isolation, an ongoing provincial labour shortage, and Wall said supply chain issues are making boat parts difficult to come by.

Bethany McCarthy, captain of the Miss High Maintenance out of Graham Pond Harbour in eastern P.E.I., is also having trouble with boat parts.

She recently acquired a new-to-her boat and is still working to replace parts and get it ready for the spring season. For that reason, she doesn't mind the delayed opening.

"We're kind of down to the crunch right now, trying to get things rolling and kind of get everything finished," she said.

Nicola MacLeod/CBC
Nicola MacLeod/CBC

"That's kind of my biggest concern right now is just having my boat ready to go."

McCarthy has fished for eight years and is also hoping for a higher price than some previous years.

"I'd love to see a start of at least $10 a pound," she said.

"When you only have two months to make your living for the year, when you have a really low price, then there's nothing left to live off of."

The weather is looking good for Monday, McCarthy said, and she hopes that forecast holds.

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