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Fall lobster fishery opens Aug 8

Jason Chaisson makes some final adjustments to lobster traps belonging to his captain, Mark McRae. Fall lobster crews are busy getting ready for their season which opens on Tuesday, August 8.
Jason Chaisson makes some final adjustments to lobster traps belonging to his captain, Mark McRae. Fall lobster crews are busy getting ready for their season which opens on Tuesday, August 8.

SKINNERS POND -- The Prince County Fishermen’s Association is getting the word out to its members to be ready to set their lobster traps a day earlier.

Association president Lee Knox said the Department of Fisheries and Oceans decision this week to move setting day to August 8 instead of the usual August 9 opening came as a surprise, especially considering his members hadn’t requested the move.

He’s no complaining, though.

Fishermen will just have to get their gear ready a day earlier, he acknowledges.

Noting that fall prices last year were as strong as they were in the spring of 2016, Knox said he’s hopeful prices this fall will be in line with the spring of 2017 when fishermen received $7.00 to $7.50 a pound for most of the season. He understands demand remains strong and he said the low Canadian dollar should help with exports.

Miminegash lobster fisherman Darren Ellsworth replaces the sizzle twine on his lobster traps in preparation for a new lobster fishing season. While his lobster traps will last for approximately seven years, the sizzle twine is a built-in safety and conservation feature to prevent ghost-fishing. The biodegradable twine is designed to fail within a year so that lobsters that get into a lost trap will be able to escape. Fall lobster fishermen in Prince Edward Island’s Lobster Fishing Area 25 will set their gear on August 8. Many of them have already started hauling gear to south side wharves.

The biggest uncertainty, though, is a two millimeter size increase coming right on the heels of a millimeter hike last year. The carapace length needs to be 75 mm or greater for a lobster to be legal size. Catches still remained strong last year but he’s fearful the larger increase this year could mean a 10 to 15 per cent decrease in landings, and even greater near the North Cape line which is the boundary between spring and fall fisheries. The measure in the spring fishery remains at 72 mm.

He’s mindful it was LFA 25 fishermen in New Brunswick who were pushing for the increase and not the PCFA. “Hopefully the New Brunswick guys will come to their senses and stop it at 75 (mm),” he commented. A further two mm increase is scheduled for next year.

He said the PCFA did gain some traction this year with some New Brunswick fishermen for slowing the increase, but not enough to make a change.

A restriction on night fishing has been removed this year. Knox said PCFA membership had voted in favour of a resolution preventing lobster fishing activity between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. but DFO had modified their proposal to prevent boats from leaving port until 4 a.m. He said that was not what the association wanted so the whole resolution was dropped.

The season will end on October 9, a Monday.

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