Lobster industry needs workers for boats

Steve Sharratt comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on February 17, 2016

Boats laden with lobster traps leave Covehead Harbour on the north shore of P.E.I at dawn on Friday May 8, 2015, for the opening of the season. The P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association says there is a shortage of second-men or corks to work on the boats, so it plans to join forces with Holland College to help attract students to a unique summer job.

©BRIAN MCINNIS/THE GUARDIAN

If you like watching the sun rise, sailing on the open water and feeling the wind in your hair, then you could be the perfect candidate.

The P.E.I. lobster industry is desperately looking for labour to work onboard boats, referred to in the industry as second-men or corks.

“It’s estimated that we will have quite a shortage in the coming years, and so we’re trying to find ways to remedy that,’’ said Ian MacPherson of the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association. “We’re running out of back-of-the-boat people.”

These workers help to haul, bait and set traps while at sea. Often a position filled by a younger member of the family, the industry is now facing changing dynamics, and finding workers for both the spring and fall lobster seasons is growing difficult. The old guard of captains is retiring, and many of P.E.I.’s 1,300 lobster licenses, boats and expensive fleets are entering the marketplace. It’s one of the most lucrative times in the industry as the lobster catch has gone from about 18 million pounds to 30 million pounds today since the turn of the century.

Fishermen are hoping a new incentive will help to attract students to a unique summer job.

“Right now we are having crew issues and a new program is being developed to launch this spring for upcoming summer jobs,” said MacPherson.

The association is working with Holland College as a way to get the message out that all students, regardless of background and whether urban or country kids, are welcome to apply for the positions.

“It’s great outdoor work,’’ said association vice-president Bobby Jenkins. “Watch the sun rise and enjoy the salt breezes and catch lobster.”

There would be some trial testing, of course, which would include a few days of “hands-on” work to determine if applicants have the proper “sea legs” and a suitable constitution, something that is necessary as the work often involves biting cold, wind and rain, the smell of dead herring and the opportunity to hurl one’s breakfast.

“Of course, It’s not all sunny days,’’ said MacPherson. “They would have to be suited to the type of work.”

ssharratt@theguardian.pe.ca

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