Disappointing lobster season in Cape Breton

July 19, 2009

GREG MCNEIL
The Cape Breton Post

MAIN-A-DIEU — Unsavoury conditions at sea and on the wharf combined to produce a lobster season to forget for harvesters off eastern Cape Breton.
The season for Area 27, which stretches from Cape North to Louisbourg, ended Wednesday. It was highlighted by poor weather and a low price per pound from buyers.

“The catches were decent starting out and then all the storms, the weather just wasn’t good for fishing,” said Main-a-Dieu lobster fisherman Derrick Wadden, who hauled half his traps out Tuesday and the remainder Wednesday.

He said the price from buyers started low and dropped further, only reaching a reasonable price near the end of the season.

“It started at $4.25 (per pound) and dropped to a low of $3.50 and stayed there for a while. It went to a high of $5.50 here and last Friday (July 10) they dropped it to $5.”

Wayne Campbell, a lobster fisherman for over 20 years, said $5 a pound would have been a good price at the beginning of the season when catches were larger.

“Coming on the end of the season you got 50-60 boats out of this harbour,” said Campbell.

“Everybody has 275 traps. Imagine if every person brings in at least 200 pounds. That is a lot of lobster being caught. At the end of it you get what you can get.”

Kelly Bates, a buyer for Argent Fisheries in Glace Bay said the price per pound is determined by demand from the big buyers.
“The big company, they tell you what the shore price is, so that the buyer has the same margin,” said Bates, whose employer sells mostly to Clearwater.
“But the buyer still isn’t making the money because the more volume, obviously, the more money the buyer can make. The buyer still has the same workers on the wharf unloading say 100 pounds of lobster as if it was 400 pounds of lobsters coming in. The buyer’s cost is still there, even when his volume is down.”

Although logbooks are still coming in from the over 500 Area 27 fishers, Paul Gentille, chief of resource management for Fisheries and Oceans, expects landings will be lower than previous seasons and therefore have a lower landed value.

“As a result, local fishers in LFA 27 had a very challenging year with a great deal of concern by many in their ability to be economically stable.”
On a more positive note, Gentille said landings in Area 29, from the Canso Causeway to St. Peter’s were well above the 10-year average for the third consecutive year.

He also said slightly above average landings are being reported from Area 30, which stretches from Louisbourg to St. Peter’s. However, market conditions there are also not considered favourable.

Stable, but low catches were reported from Area 28, a fishing small area in the Bras d’Or Lake.

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