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Mid-week decision will be made on a Friday or Saturday start to the lobster fishery in southwest Nova Scotia

Gear and boats wait for the start of the lobster season at the Falls Point Wharf in Shelburne County.
Gear and boats wait for the start of the lobster season at the Falls Point Wharf in Shelburne County. - Kathy Johnson

YARMOUTH, N.S. – The start of the lobster season that had been delayed for Monday now won’t happen until Friday or Saturday in southwestern Nova Scotia and along the province’s south shore.

During a Monday morning 8 a.m. conference call that took place for LFA 34 (which is the lobster district that includes all of Yarmouth County and parts of Shelburne and Digby counties), the decision was made to have another conference call on Wednesday morning to decide on a Friday or Saturday opening.

The vote to hold off until beyond Wednesday was made by the port reps given the forecast for the next few days. Fourteen LFA 34 port reps voted no-go until later in the week, two voted to go earlier and one rep abstained from the vote.

A conference call took place in LFA 33 an hour later (this district spans from Shelburne County along the south shore to Halifax County). The decision to hold off until week’s end was unanimous in that call.

Going into the conference calls it was already known Tuesday was a writeoff for the season start as it is forecasting gales. Strong winds are also forecast for Wednesday and Thursday is also not seen as an optimal dumping day.

Students at the Clark’s Harbour Elementary School are wishing fishermen a safe start to the lobster fishery by making colorful signs, which have been placed along the fence in front of the school, as well as local wharves on Cape Sable Island.  Kathy Johnson photo
Students at the Clark’s Harbour Elementary School are wishing fishermen a safe start to the lobster fishery by making colorful signs, which have been placed along the fence in front of the school, as well as local wharves on Cape Sable Island. Kathy Johnson photo

Traditionally, the lobster season starts the final Monday of November, although the past two years the season start has been delayed by a day due to winds. A few years ago the season start was pushed back to Saturday.

There has been a lot of banter on Facebook among fishermen over the decision not to start the season on Monday, Nov. 26 – people have opinions on both sides and agree or disagree with the decision – but Bernie Berry of the Coldwater Lobster Association, one of the port reps to take part in both conference calls, said the majority of those on the Monday morning call stood by the decision not to have started the season on Monday. While the weather would have been OK in some parts of the district, for others it would have been a risky day to be heading to sea with boats loaded with traps and gear.

“We have to err on the side of caution,” Berry said, noting there were reports of two- to three-metre seas and five-metre seas Monday in parts of LFA 34 and LFA 33.

“Because LFA 34 is so large you can’t satisfy everyone,” he said about any decision that is made. But safety for all – as opposed to safety for some – has to be the ultimate consideration.

READ THE TRI-COUNTY VANGUARD'S COLLECTION OF 2018 LOBSTER OUTLOOK STORIES BY CLICKING HERE 

Berry noted another advantage of the season starting later in the week is the “bad tides” that would have affected some fishing ports will be gone by week’s end.

Some comments being made on social media Monday suggested that the conference call to determine the start of the season should have taken place on Sunday instead of Saturday since there was a change in the forecast after the Saturday conference call had taken place. Asked if a Sunday call would have made a difference, Berry says this scenario was discussed Monday and the decision to delay would have been the same regardless.

“It would have been nasty for some to have gone out on Monday,” he said.

Another thing he said that is trying to be achieved in determining when the season starts is to give fishermen more than one day’s advance notice.

“We have 16 or 17 amateur meteorologists trying to make the call for everyone,” he said, noting, again, not everyone will agree with the decisions.

But in the end safety makes the ultimate call.


MAKE SAFETY A PRIORITY

Lobster fishermen in southwestern Nova Scotia are reminded to make safety a priority during this year's fishing season.

"Fishing is a safer profession today than it was a decade ago, but it remains a dangerous and demanding job," said Nova Scotia Labour Minister Labi Kousoulis. "I want to thank those who have taken positive steps to improve their own safety and the safety of those aboard their vessels and wish all the fishermen in southwestern Nova Scotia a safe and successful season."

To stay safe during the season, fishermen are reminded to:

• wear a personal flotation device and make personal flotation devices mandatory on their boats

• monitor weather before heading out for the day

• regularly examine their safety gear and that of others on board

• assess their boats in advance, and stay on the lookout for potential hazards while working

• be prepared for emergencies

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