© Eric McCarthy/Journal Pioneer
Boats are piled high with traps as fishermen await the start of the fall lobster fishery.
ALBERTON – Fall lobster fishermen will learn early Thursday morning whether they will set their gear Friday morning or have to wait until Monday.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans facilitated a Wednesday morning conference call with Lobster Fishing Area 25 port representatives in New Brunswick and P.E.I. to discuss whether to open the season as scheduled or delay it until Monday.
Instead of making a decision Wednesday, fishermen agreed to participate in another conference call Thursday at 8 a.m. and make a decision then based on the latest forecast.
Of concern is a forecast of wind in the 15 to 20 knots range for Friday.
Prince County Fishermen’s Association president, Lee Knox, who was on the call, estimated fishermen were split pretty well 50-50 on whether they should go as scheduled or delay. He suggested sentiments were similar on both sides of the Northumberland Strait.
If they were sure the wind would only be 15 to 20 knots, Knox suggested most fishermen would be comfortable going, but if the winds go much over 20 knots, that becomes a concern.
As well, the low-tide arrives Friday around the time boats would be heading out with their second load, and it could be problematic getting out of some of P.E.I.’s ports.
An Environment Canada meteorologist, Linda Libby, said that while tropical storm Bertha is likely to be a post tropical storm by the time it passes to the south of the Maritimes on Wednesday and give little in the form of adverse weather, a low pressure system behind Bertha could generate northerly wind in the 15 to 20 knot range on Friday and possibly 20 to 25 knots on Saturday. The system should start to weaken by Saturday evening, she said.
Knox said a decision Thursday should still give fishermen time to get ready for a Friday opening, if necessary. While most fishermen already have their gear piled and ready on the wharves, Knox said most captains don’t load their boats until the day before the season opens.
Boats were set to head out at 6 a.m. on Friday.
The Aug. 8 opening date is one day earlier than normal for the fall fishery. Fishermen had actually requested a Thursday opening as a means of taking some pressure off processors, but they were granted only a one-day advance, which meant heading out on the water on Friday.
With a Friday opening, a large catch would be expected on Saturday, but processors would have Sunday to catch up before fishermen return to the water on Monday to fish a two-day set.