The solidarity Prince Edward Island fishermen built to hold out for better prices started to collapse Monday, prompting most lobster fishermen to return to the water Tuesday morning ending a week-long strike that paralyzed the industry.
North side fishermen from Seacow Pond to Red Head voted to return to fish, which essentially ended the lobster strike.
There were suggestions south side fishermen may stay in port for another day out of respect for Nova Scotia fishermen who joined the boycott along with fishermen from New Brunswick and Newfoundland.
“We won’t be fishing in our port Tuesday, but I don't know how long that will last,’’ said Beach Point fisherman Donnie Johnston.
Island fishermen were trying to get a better price but the swelling ranks of support from fishermen across the Maritimes started to unravel when fishermen in Tignish and Seacow Pond hauled lobster Monday.
Meetings and conference calls were held throughout Monday night to staunch the flow, but the lack of options and fear of losing what’s left of the eight-week season, caused support to dwindle.
In one port, the vote was two-thirds in favour of returning to fishing.
Things need to be done differently in the lobster fishery next year, the president of the Western Gulf Fishermen’s Association told members attending a special information meeting Monday night in Alberton.
“We have to know what we’re getting for our fish before we go fishing.” Craig Avery insisted. “This is crazy.”
Avery acknowledged the tie-up of lobster fishing boats was drawing to a close without any gains in price.
Avery said it looked like most commissioned buyers would still be paying $2.75 and $3.25 on Tuesday.
If such prices had been known before the season started, he said, some fishermen would have stayed out West working instead of coming home to fish.
“At the end of the day, I’m sorry to say, I really don’t feel we gained much ground but we showed a lot of solidarity among fishermen. Other than that, we did what we could,” he advised members.
Most fishermen from the Western Gulf ports of Tignish and Seacow Pond went fishing on Monday, and Avery said it was likely Alberton and Hardy’s Channel would join them back on the water on Tuesday.
The one obvious difference was the police vehicles watching for any signs of trouble in Tignish. There had been rumours of fishermen from other ports – upset that they ended the lobster blockade – showing up. There were no reports of violence.
Avery said he didn’t think there would be any animosity shown towards the ports that returned to the fishery a day earlier.
“Their feeling was each port decide for themselves and, what the other port does, it doesn’t make any difference,” Avery said of the sentiment of fishermen from his home port of Alberton.
He acknowledged that fishermen from Alberton were heavily in favour of getting back on the water on Monday, too, during a Sunday evening vote, but they voted again Monday morning and decided to stay in one more day because Hardy’s Channel was staying in port.
“Had we known New Brunswick was fishing (Monday), it may have changed the vote for sure. We were going on the assumption they weren’t fishing today,” he said Monday.
The executive secretary of the Maritime Fishermen’s Union confirmed Monday evening that all New Brunswick boats had resumed fishing on Monday.
Avery acknowledged fishermen for the stand they took during the blockade.
“They worked hard and tried to do the best they could. I hope, at the end of the day, we can all be friends,” he said.
By Steve Sharratt of The Guardian and Eric McCarthy of TC Media