YARMOUTH, N.S. – The start of the province’s largest and longest lobster fishery in LFAs 33 and 34 is being delayed due to winds and won’t start Monday, Nov. 26.
The last Monday of November is traditionally the start of the season, but that’s only if the weather permits. The decision to postpone the start of the season was made during conference calls for both districts Saturday morning, Nov. 24. The next conference calls to determine if there will be a Tuesday or Wednesday opening are scheduled for Monday morning.
The conference call for LFA 34 (which takes in southwestern Nova Scotia) will be Monday morning at 8 a.m. The call for LFA 33 (which takes in the province’s south shore) will be Monday at 9 a.m.
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. That wasn’t the across-the-board forecast for Monday – which made things more complicated – and so the decision on whether to postpone the season start went to a vote, says Bernie Berry of the Coldwater Lobster Association, who was part of the conference call.
He says in LFA 34 there were 16 reps who took part in the vote: 13 voted no-go, two voted for the season to open Monday, and one abstained from the vote.
“The district is so large, it makes it hard,” said Berry Saturday morning, who said there is a difference in the wind forecasted Monday for the southern part of the district in LFA 34 compared to the northern part. He said there is a lot of wind forecasted for the southern end on Monday – forecasted to reach 30 knots in some areas.
The tides and sea states were also discussed during the conference call and while it was noted there is a weather window on Monday, it didn't look large enough to ensure a safe opening for everyone and safety is what the decision has to boil down to.
“The bottom line is safety,” Berry said, saying the decision has to be made for the district as a whole, even if in some areas the weather is more favourable.
In the last two seasons the opening of the fishery was delayed by one day due to high winds. In 2014, the season start was delayed by six days due to the weather.
On dumping day, fishing crews head out to the fishing grounds with boats heavily loaded with traps, rope, buoys and other gear. It is seen as the most risky day of the six-month season. Around 5,000 fishers will be on boats when the season starts.
While safety onboard individual vessels is a message drilled home throughout the season and leading up to the start of it, the opening of the season also sees a large number of search and rescue assets tasked to the region that includes adding extra crews to coast guard lifeboat stations; having zodiacs and fast rescue crafts at the ready in addition to having coast guard cutters patrolling the area. Two offshore Coast Guard patrol vessels are strategically placed on the fishing grounds and the Coast Guard Auxiliary is an asset that will be used if required. There will also be assets in the air with a fixed wing Hercules and a Cormorant helicopter in the air or on standby. The SAR resources that would have been deployed Monday will instead be deployed on the day the season starts.