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Island family forced to leave after financial hit from fishing industry

SPRING VALLEY - The Cole family won’t be calling Prince Edward Island home much longer.

Rickey and Chancie Cole finished packing the trailer with their children Darrison and Makayla. The family is moving away to find new work because the lobster fishing industry has been struggling in recent years.

The family of four is moving to Alberta in pursuit of more financially stable work.

Rickey Cole has been fishing since 1995 and has slowly seen the market begin to deteriorate.

“The industry is at an all-time low,” said Rickey. “I have more money going out than I do coming in.”

He’s been fishing lobster out of French River for years and says the last two seasons have been by far the worst.

“I haven’t made a profit since 2012. I’ve been going west in the winter to make ends meat.”

The industry on the Island has struggled the past several seasons, however, the market price this fall is up from last year to around $3.50 per pound. Rickey explained a scenario where the price of lobster could be $4 per pound and he would barely break even.

“I have to pay for equipment, help, fuel, bait, income tax, maintenance and other expenses throughout the year. You’re looking anywhere from $80,000-$100,000 in expenses and you’re only making $60,000-$80,000.”

Rickey and his wife Chancie, along with their children, Darrison and Makayla, are just about packed up for Alberta.

The family has mixed emotions about the move.

“I think we’re all excited about new opportunities,” said Chancie. “It’s a chance to start fresh.”

Chancie said it’s hard to leave the Island, where she and her husband both grew up.

“We’re leaving our home. Some parts about this are difficult but Rickey and I have been positive so our children don’t get upset.”

Fortunately, mom and dad have an easy task.

Their 11-year-old son is thrilled to head west.

“I’m excited for new opportunities,” Darrison said smiling from ear to ear.

Looking forward to making new friends at school, Darrison is also looking forward to get new teammates.

“I play hockey and baseball and there’s others sports to try there.”

The Cole’s aren’t the only Islanders who have been forced to leave, according to Rickey.

“I personally know another fellow who just decided enough was enough. After fishing for twenty some years he decided he wasn’t going to work out west to pay for bills he created going fishing.”

Rickey said the industry is going to get worse before it gets better.

“I can see a day where the processors own all the boats and no one fishes for themselves. That’s unfortunately where I think it’s heading.”

With her children and husband on board, Chancie sees this as a chance to have a little fun.

“The kids are young, we’re young. Why not try to make an adventure out of it and enjoy what’s next.”

Geographic location: Alberta, Iceland, French River

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