Size matters, P.E.I.'s Bearded Skipper tells minister

Steve Sharratt
Published on March 20, 2013
Norman Peters, the "bearded skipper", stands outside the Rustico Harbour Fisheries Museum in this recent photo.
Guardian photo

When Canada’s federal minister of Fisheries and Oceans leaned on his lobster trap last weekend and asked if size matters, the Bearded Skipper knew he had a catch.

“He heard I had 50 years on the water and thought I might have a little knowledge, so he asked for my advice,” said Norman Peters, the North Rustico fisherman who, with his trim white beard and captain’s hat, has become the promotional face of the P.E.I. fishery.

Peters was attending the Boston Seafood show in New England as a promoter for his North Rustico fishery museum and the P.E.I. fishery in general. He’s also on the board of directors with the Fisherman’s Association.

“I had a (lobster) trap sittin’ in my booth and was explaining to people about how we catch lobster and how good P.E.I. lobster tastes,’’ he said.

Peters, who hopes to once again set his traps this spring, was swamped by the capacity crowd at the seafood show; especially Japanese and Chinese interests after he was a hit in China last fall promoting the Island fishery and winding up on the front page of a national newspaper.

“I was all alone when Mr. (Fisheries Minister Keith) Ashfield came along and he leaned on my trap wanting to know about the carapace issue,’’ said Peters.

That’s where the size comes in. The carapace is the length of the lobster shell (the part with the legs only) and Maritime fishing districts have different measurements. The size differences may be less than the width of a slice of baloney, but P.E.I. — at 72 mm — has been fighting to preserve its smaller and unique size and oppose a one size fits all mentality. There is also no conservation reasoning behind the increase.

“I told him it would be very, very bad for P.E.I. if the feds forced us to a larger lobster,” said the Skipper.

“I told him to leave us alone...nicely mind you...and that it was stupid because then everyone would be tossed together into the fresh market size.”

Peters said he was surprised to have such an opportunity to speak with a federal politician in such an informal manner. He also provided a similar opinion to the Quebec minister of fisheries as well.

“They asked and I spoke my piece,” he said.

“I often wonder if it’s worth going to these big shows like China and Boston, but then you realize how important it is to speak face to face to a person rather than on a phone — that’s where sincerity can’t be faked.”