By Tina Comeau
The largest lobster fishery in Canada is tied up due to strong winds forecasted for much of what was supposed to be the opening week of the season.
At this time the season is slated to open on Friday, Nov. 29.
Dumping day for lobster fishing areas (LFAs) 34 and 33 traditionally occurs on the last Monday of November, which would have been Nov. 25, but days ago the decision to postpone the season became an automatic one with a forecasted gale warning and winds of 30 to 40 knots on the forecast.
The opening day protocol for LFA 34 fishery off southwestern Nova Scotia states that any forecasted winds of 25 knots or above will cause a postponement.
And there is no break in the forecast for the coming days either.
Environment Canada’s online marine weather forecast is awash in red weather warnings, with strong winds not forecasted to diminish until at least Friday, Nov. 29. Some fishing areas are seeing forecasts of winds up to 45 knots mid-week.
The decision to hold off until Friday to dump lobster traps at sea was made during Sunday conference calls in both fishing districts.
LFA 34 extends from Barrington Bay to Burns Point, Digby County, taking in all of Yarmouth County. LFA 33 extends from Cole Harbour to Goose Point, Barrington Bay.
Another set of conference calls is set for Wednesday, Nov. 27. A 1 p.m. call is aimed at determining the start time for a Friday dumping day in LFA 34. This fishing district normally sees a 6 a.m. start time, with a 7 a.m. start in LFA 33. However, winds, as the forecast stands now, are still forecasted to be strong started out on Friday, but then diminishing.
Safety, obviously, is the reason for the postponement to the season. The opening of the lobster season can be a dangerous time even in the best of weather conditions as boats loaded with traps head out to the fishing grounds to dump their traps.
A safety resource plan is in place for when the season does open.
“We’re ready to be on standby whenever the day is called,” says Captain John Pulchny, with Public Affairs at 14 Wing Greenwood.
In LFAs 33 and 34, 413 Transport and Rescue Squadron, based out of 14 Wing Greenwood, will have rescue crews on a heightened 30-minute standby on dumping day for the districts.
The Canadian Forces and the Canadian Coast Guard will heighten and augment their search and rescue resources as determined by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and other agencies and will have vessels on the water and in their air keeping and eye on things and ready to respond if needed.
Fishing boat operators are encouraged to wear life jackets, immersion suits or personal floatation devices (PFDs) to minimize the risk of drowning and to maximize the chance of being found if they are lost overboard.
Registered Emergency Positional Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) on vessels also greatly increase the chances of being located quickly in the event of a distress situation.
As this week unfolds, it would seem that Mother Nature has done what fishermen couldn’t agree on prior to the start of the season in LFA 34 – this being whether or not to delay the start of the season. A ballot vote saw a slim majority of licence holders vote in favour of change for this season, although beyond that there was no clear consensus on what type of change there should be so Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea said the season would be status quo, with the same opening day and the same number of traps.
Now with boats tied up due to the weather – in seasons yet to open and those already underway – lobster fishermen are hopeful that the delay to the start of the season could see a higher opening price for their catches.
The delay is also problematic, however, with people having taken vacation time this week to add extra manpower on lobster boats for the first week of the season, which is a busy time.