ALBERTON -- Prince Edward Island’s north side lobster fishermen in Lobster Fishing Area 24 had sunny and calm conditions today as they loaded their boats with baited traps in preparation for Thursday's start of the spring lobster season.
The season was originally scheduled to open Wednesday but was delayed a day due to a forecast of windy conditions.
“I think we made the right decision,” said Western Gulf Fishermen’s Association president Craig Avery of the industry decision to delay the opening a day. He acknowledged fishermen likely could have gotten out but there would have been quite a swell on at the mouths of some harbours, making for dangerous conditions.
Most fishermen in LFA 26A in the eastern end of P.E.I. were able to set as scheduled Wednesday. The exception are fishermen from Point Prim to Victoria in 26A who typically set a week later. Their season runs from May 7 to July 7. The season for the LFA 24 and the rest of 26A in P.E.I. will end on June 30.
There are 636 P.E.I. lobster fishermen in LFA 24. LFA 26A1 has 372 lobster fishermen from P.E.I. and 133 from Nova Scotia. There are 428 fishermen in other LFAs in Nova Scotia who head out to set their gear anywhere from April 30 to May 5. The season in LFA 23 was to open on Wednesday for 671 lobster fishermen from New Brunswick, but they have been delayed due to ice. An industry-led committee is assessing the situation to determine a late opening date.
After loading their boats in calmer conditions than originally anticipated many LFA 24 fishermen spent the rest of the day Wednesday fussing with their remaining gear on the wharves, tying on trap lines and adding bait so that they will be able to quickly reload on Thursday and head out with the rest of their gear.
Last year fishermen headed out for the spring season amid expectations of improved prices only to see the shore price take a dive, a situation that led to a tie-up of fishing boats and spawned two reports and a summit on the state of the lobster fishery.
Despite demands in the industry for a price to be set before fishermen set their gear this year, that still has not happened.
Avery suggested Wednesday optimism of better prices is even higher this year than last. “There seems to be a good demand,” he said, adding some buyers have expressed an interest in taking on more boats. Avery said buyers are also suggesting the stronger US dollar should help move the price up.
Good catches of herring in the past week, Avery reported, has fishermen well set with fresh bait to start the season. Even though the herring fishery has shut down on the south side of the Island until Saturday, Avery suggested most fishermen have stocked up with enough to make it through the week.
While there was some concern in the industry three to four weeks ago about the availability of hired help for the lobster boats, Avery said that seems to have ironed itself out.