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EDITORIAL: Quality handling from start to finish for P.E.I. fishermen

['Lobster fishing']
['Lobster fishing']

Funds to help Island fishermen install new storage and handling equipment onboard their vessels will be money well spent.

This week the federal and provincial governments announced that, through the Atlantic Fisheries Fund, they will share the cost of installing the new equipment. The Atlantic Fisheries Fund will cover up to 50 per cent of the cost, to a maximum of $3,000 per boat. Fishermen are responsible for the other half, and all of the expenses beyond the cap.

While all core fishermen are eligible for the funding, this support has lobster written all over it.

It might not be so much that lobster fishermen need the help, as most of them have been doing pretty good in the fishery in recent years, but let’s not forget governments are benefitting from the lobster industry, too.

So, for governments to spend up to $3,000 per interested lobster fishermen on infrastructure that will help those fishermen deliver a higher quality product to the wharves makes a whole lot of sense.

Sure, some of the fishermen could afford to make the improvements on their own, but this bit of help just gives them more incentive to make the improvements.

In the long run, fishermen and governments will both benefit.

As fishermen prosper, so does the Island’s economy. Delivering a consistently high quality product to the buying station is what Island fishermen need to do remain competitive in the marketplace. As more fishermen install refrigeration and other specialized equipment onboard their boats other fishermen will be compelled to do so, or else buyers will become selective as to from whom they buy their lobsters.

The Island’s lobster fishery is performing well. This investment will help keep it performing that way.

Proper handling and storage needs to be first and foremost, and it’s not just about the product fishermen deliver to their buying stations. They need to handle the undersized lobsters properly, too.

Although it is not permitted, some lobster fishermen still use doubtful boxes while on the water. They bring their traps onboard and, rather than take the time to measure the traps’ contents right there, they drop the lobsters they’re unsure of into a doubtful box and then measure them while the fishing boat sails to the next bunch of traps. Then the undersized ones get tossed back overboard as the boat sails along. Such practice risks harm to the little lobsters and they might not get to grow to legal size.

Fishermen’s associations want the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to crack down on the practice and it should.

To handle the product properly, fishermen need to take the time and do it right, the first time, gently returning the undersized and egg-bearing lobsters back to their natural environment as quickly and efficiently as possible.

As for the lobsters that are delivered to the wharf, it sort of defeats the purpose of having the proper refrigeration equipment on board if fishermen then fling their pans of lobster up onto the wharf so that they land there with a plop. That’s got to be a bit traumatic for the lobsters, already out of their element, to be handled that way, and especially for the ones at the bottom of the pans.

The catch is valuable and needs to be treated as such from the time the trap is taken out of the water.

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