© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
Long time lobster fisherman Keith Peters baits his traps.
Late start, lost days, imposed quotas all support extension to lobster season
Canada Day usually marks the time when lobster fishermen are tidying up gear landed the day before. This July 1 should be different. But it comes as no surprise the spring fishery will end Monday when north shore fishermen should be enjoying a few extra days to salvage what has been a very tough season in terms of price, landings and weather.
A deal was reached over the winter to permit fishermen to set traps Sat., April 26, with the first haul scheduled for Mon., April 28. That would have allowed the season to wrap up today and avoid running into Canada Day holiday events the first of next week.
For the first time in years, there was an ice delay in some ports as Islanders remember well the lingering winter and the snowfalls in late April. The season was then pushed ahead to its regular setting day of April 30 but winds delayed traps going in the water for most fishermen until May 1. The weather remained cold for weeks, with northeast winds blowing persistently. Landings were light and prices were not much better than last year. A number of days were lost to high winds and on still other occasions, fishermen couldn’t land their catch because of quotas from buyers and processors over worker shortages in fish plants. All in all, it was a terrible spring.
Now, with warm weather finally upon us, catches rebounding and prices improving., fishermen have a chance to recapture some lost time and make a few extra dollars. But there is no flexibility from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association has been strangely quiet on this issue.
New fishermen, especially, need the extra days. They invested enormous sums to launch a career but are being denied a chance to pay off some bills. The continual reluctance of DFO to take into consideration the variables of the season has long remained a bone of contention. DFO has no problem delaying a season but can never seem to extend one.
When fishermen constantly see there will be no allowances to make up for lost days, more and more will risk going out to pull traps on stormy days when it really isn’t safe. They are being forced to gamble with their lives in order to salvage a season because DFO won’t make a sensible decision.
It would make perfect sense to end the season next Saturday, July 5 and let fishermen, plant workers and others try to make a few extra dollars.
Auditor-General Jane MacAdam pointed out some alarming trends when she appeared before the legislature’s public accounts committee this week. Islanders should be concerned at the fiscal direction this province is heading. Our net debt has passed the $2 billion mark and the government is pushing more and more of those repayments into the future. It’s only delaying the inevitable and now it will be up to our children and beyond to finally pay off that debt. Ms. MacAdam’s warnings add urgency to the necessity of balancing the budget and starting to pay down the debt instead of simply making interest payments.
Now, finally, things are really heating up and it isn’t just the weather. Our 150th anniversary celebrations ramp up today with the start of the Big Red Festival at the Charlottetown Events Grounds. There has been a steady increase in activity for the first six months of our sesquicentennial year and the lid is coming off this weekend with an even bigger party Tuesday. Hang on to your party hats.