Warren Francis and his family were in high spirits as they readied their brand-new fishing boat at Pictou Landing’s wharf under a sunny spring sky for the upcoming lobster season starting next Monday.
As his wife Suzanne, daughter MacKenzie and her boyfriend Tyler Ferguson attached plastic balloons to the sides of the Jaxton Brock, Warren offered a simple message to his colleagues on the water.
“Stay safe and have a good catch,” he said, before getting back to work on his boat.
The Jaxton Brock is named for Warren and Suzanne’s grandson, due later this year.
While the Francis family are expecting a good catch this year, they chose not to reveal their last season’s results.
But fisherman Ronnie Heighton, who sits on the Gulf of Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board, said that fishermen plying the Northumberland Strait for catches can “live quite happily.”
“There’s never a bad day when you fish lobster,” Heighton said. “Come to the wharf and get a feed of the very best lobsters in the world.”
However, Heighton states that danger lies ahead for fishermen who rely on the Strait for their livelihoods. For him, the danger comes from Northern Pulp’s proposal to pump treated effluent further out into the Strait than it currently is.
The mill says the waste pipe will be safe and not impact any fishing areas, but local fishermen say the risk is still too high and another way must be found to handle effluent.
“It is not going in,” said Heighton, however Northern Pulp continues to move ahead with the process of getting the new effluent treatment facility approved.
When asked how the fishermen plan to stop it, Heighton wouldn’t reveal his plans, saying they were in a war.
“We have not yet begun to fight,” said Heighton.
Even if they win their fight with the mill, fishermen face another issue: climate change warming the oceans.
Not all its effects will be negative – a slight warming of ocean waters may lead to bigger catches as more lobsters reproduce.
“It may have a slight impact now,” said Heighton.
The effects are already being felt by U.S. fishermen in neighbouring Maine. There, warming waters helped fishermen catch a record-breaking 130 million pounds of lobster in 2016 up from 110 million pounds in 2011, according to a report in The Revelator.
However, if the Northumberland Strait and other waters near Nova Scotia warm too much, lobster habitats will shift further north across the Gulf of St. Lawrence.