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P.E.I. fisherman prepare for fall lobster season

Five-year-old Cruz Sharpe is along for the ride as Brody Gavin, fisherman’s helper for Patrick Sharpe, piles lobster gear onto the wharf at West Point. Fishermen will be transferring their gear to their boats on Wednesday in preparation for the fall lobster season getting underway on Thursday.
Five-year-old Cruz Sharpe is along for the ride as Brody Gavin, fisherman’s helper for Patrick Sharpe, piles lobster gear onto the wharf at West Point. Fishermen will be transferring their gear to their boats on Wednesday in preparation for the fall lobster season getting underway on Thursday. - Eric McCarthy

Another carapace increase still a concern in LFA 25

SKINNERS POND, P.E.I. - There is some rain in the forecast, but the president of the Prince County Fishermen’s Association is expecting smooth sailing for the opening day of Prince Edward Island’s fall lobster fishery.

Lee Knox is hoping the forecast for this Thursday’s setting day of relatively light wind of up to 15 knots holds, as it will allow for good conditions for fishermen to unload their traps.

“It’s the very best,” he said. “Anything under 20 (knots) is good.”

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has a conference call with port representatives set for this morning to assess setting day weather conditions and make the decision on whether the season opens Thursday, as scheduled, or gets delayed. Knox is anticipating it will get started on time.

Approximately 218 western P.E.I. fall fishermen share Lobster Fishing Area 25 in the Northumberland Strait with mainland fishermen from Chatham, N.B., nearly to Amherst, N.S.

Knox said the greater abundance of mackerel this summer should have fishermen in good shape for bait to start the season.

“There was lots of mackerel around, probably our best year in a while.”

Most fishermen already have their gear piled on wharves and are just puttering around their boats.

Brian Smith was hauling traps to the wharf in West Point Monday morning. He said he stopped that process last Thursday because of the heat and was expecting cooler conditions for finishing up on Monday. However, the temperature was back up again.

West Point’s 26 lobster boats account for almost 12 per cent of Prince Edward Island’s fleet of 218 fall vessels.

Patrick Sharpe was also finishing off his gear, but with the traps piled on pallets and with the use of a forklift the workers were able to lessen their time in the heat.

“I think the outlook is good,” said Sharpe. “We’re hoping for the best.”

While he’s also hoping for good catches, the PCFA president is fearful the third carapace size increase in three years could impact catches, especially in the northern part of the district where the canner-to-market ratio is higher.

While Prince Edward Island’s fall fishery recorded a catch increase last year, Knox said northern ports did not see that increase.

The minimum carapace measure in Lobster Fishing Area 25, the fall fishery, moved from 72 mm to 73 mm in 2016 and then jumped two millimetres last year. The third and final of the scheduled increases is also the largest, moving the measure to 77 mm this year.

Knox said there is no indication the Department of Fisheries and Oceans nor the Maritime Fishermen’s Union in New Brunswick are seeking further increases.

On his expectations for price, Knox responded, “We’ll take the price the spring got.” The spring price was $5 a pound for canners and $5.50 a pound for markets.

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