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Historically high landings and uncertain prices bring a mixed bag ahead of 2019 lobster season

32 fishing boats line the floating docks at Lismore Wharf one week ahead of setting day on April 29.
32 fishing boats line the floating docks at Lismore Wharf one week ahead of setting day on April 29. - Brendan Ahern

The springtime lobster season in district 26a is getting ready to launch.

“They’re getting the traps ready and bringing them down to the wharf,” said Wright, supervisor at the fish plant at Lismore wharf in Pictou County. “They’ll bait them on setting day, or maybe the day before and at 6 o’clock sharp the majority of them will be out on the water.”

Thirty-two boats lined the floating dock at Lismore on a rainy Monday while captains and helpers attended a wharf meeting at the community centre less than a kilometre up the road.

Lobster landings have been trending upwards since 2016, and in 2018 district 26a made up 7.5 per cent of Canadian inshore lobster lanings with 7,335 metric tonnes brought up from the sea floor. 

That, according to the Lobster Council of Canada is an increase from 2017 and 2016 in which this district landed 6,451 and 5,072 MT respectively.

Lobster Council of Canada data show landings for district 26a in red show increase since 2016-Saltwire
Lobster Council of Canada data show landings for district 26a in red show increase since 2016-Saltwire

But even though landings in this region have been trending upward, the dollars hauled in by harvesters are always unpredictable.

"It’s not looking too rosy right now," said Leonard LeBlanc, managing director of the Gulf of Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board.

“I think people were looking for above six dollars and somehow the rumor is that it’s going to be around five-ish, so harvesters aren’t happy at the present time.”

Leblanc told The News that, at the end of the day, it’s the market and the buyers within it who set the price, and that can be at odds with what harvesters in district 26a want.

“They didn’t buy anything from southwest Nova Scotia all winter and they basically shut down their plants because it was way too high for what they wanted to pay,” said Leblanc, referring to sky-high shore prices of $9 in Districts 34 and 33, Canada’s largest commercial lobster fishing region.

This caused a bottleneck in the supply between harvesters, processors and the buyers who put the two together.

“They probably have a very low inventory and they’ll need a lot to supply their markets. To me it should be higher than what the talk is right now, and I’d be very happy if the buyers and the processors want to prove me wrong.”

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