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Weather delays opening of lobster season in southwest N.S. by a day

Fishermen load their boats with lobster fishing gear on Nov. 25 at the Lower Woods Harbour wharf on what was supposed to be dumping day for LFA 33 and 34.  Weather caused a one-day delay in the season opening. KATHY JOHNSON PHOTO
Fishermen load their boats with lobster fishing gear on Nov. 25 at the Lower Woods Harbour wharf on what was supposed to be dumping day for LFA 33 and 34. Weather caused a one-day delay in the season opening. - Kathy Johnson
YARMOUTH, N.S. —

The opening of the lobster fishing season in southwestern Nova Scotia is being delayed by one day due to the weather.

Rather than heading out to sea to set their gear on Monday, Nov. 25, strong winds have kept fishermen ashore an extra day. A decision was made during industry conference calls on Monday morning to go with a Tuesday, Nov. 26 opening. Rather than leaving the wharves at the normal 6 a.m. time in LFA 34 (in southwestern Nova Scotia) the decision was to push the start back to 7 a.m.

LFA 33, which stretches along the province’s South Shore, will also have a 7 a.m. start on Tuesday.

Years ago, DFO and the LFA 34 industry advisory committee put in place an opening day protocol that dictates any winds forecasted above 25 knots will automatically trigger a postponement to the opening of the season in LFA 34, which is why the season did not open on Monday. A gale warning was in place on Monday. On the weekend LFA 33 followed suit with the LFA 34 decision to hold off on the season's start. 

The marine lurcher forecast is calling for the wind to diminish to west 15 to 20 late Monday evening and be west 10 to 15 knots Tuesday morning.

Still, the opening week won’t be ideal weather-wise. On Monday, the marine forecast for lurcher was calling for winds of 25 to 35 knots on Thursday and Friday.

Last year, the weather had pushed back the opening of the season from the Monday to the Saturday.

More than 5,000 fishermen and extra crew will be aboard the boats for the opening of the season. DFO says there are 1,662 lobster licences amongst these two LFAs combined.

Preliminary figures show the total landed value was down during the 2018-2019 season, coming in at $498.2 million, compared to approximately $502 million the previous season. The breakdown by fishing area was 8,724 tonnes landed in LFA 33 for a landed value $152.1 million and 19,610 tonnes landed in LFA 34 (southwestern Nova Scotia) for $346.5 million in landed value.

Safety is always a priority when the season opens given that it is a risky day with boats heavily loaded with traps and other gear. 

SAR assets are always deployed and on standby for dumping day. Leading into the season the Tri-County Vanguard newsroom was told offshore there will be two Canadian Coast Guard platforms, strategically placed on the fishing grounds – one in the western zone somewhere off Yarmouth, and the other on the eastern end between Halifax and Clark’s Harbour.

Crews are also being brought in to the three small lifeboat stations in Sambro, Clark’s Harbour and West Port to be on stand-by at the station where they will have access to the stations’ zodiacs or fast rescue crafts (FRC) if tasked, and to assist the first crew who will be out on patrol in the Arun-class cutters.

Fisheries conservation and protection boats that were out on the water during the opening can also be tasked for SAR duties. The Canadian Air Force is tasking a fixed wing Hercules and a helicopter out of Greenwood for the opening. The chopper will be on stand-by in Yarmouth, while the Hercules will either be on patrol or on 30-minute standby at Greenwood.

Meanwhile, safety message reminders are being repeated by others.

"It is important to wear personal floatation devices, check all vessel safety equipment to ensure it is inspected and accessible, to try on immersion suits and familiarize all crew members with the vessel and its equipment. We wish all those in Lobster Fishing Areas 33 and 34 a safe and prosperous season,” said Amanda Dedrick, executive director, Fisheries Safety Association of Nova Scotia.

"Each year, fishing vessels leave port full of excitement to start their season. Our Are You Ready team has been visiting wharfs and conducting safety drills throughout Lobster Fishing Areas 33 and 34,” added Lisa Fitzgerald, executive director, Nova Scotia Fisheries Sector Council. “We want to ensure fish harvesters are well equipped, knowledgeable and prepared.”

Safety begins before heading out on the water. Crews are reminded it is important to monitor the weather, assess their boats, examine their safety gear, prepare for emergencies and wear their personal floatation devices.

"Many Nova Scotians have lost their lives to drownings in the fishing industry in recent years – a somber reminder of the dangers that still exist in this industry,” said Stuart MacLean, CEO, Workers' Compensation Board Nova Scotia. “So as another lobster season begins, I encourage all crews to make safety a priority. Only do something if you can do it safely."

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