June 9 2014: via CBC news this just in….
Above, CBC photo: Louisbourg Seafood hopes to keep more than 1,000 crates of lobsters alive long enough to find a buyer. Remember, there are 100 pounds of lobster in each of those crates!
After posting our Lobster Fishing experience and the informational follow-up post about the Lobster Cars in Pubnico, one of my readers, Mira, asked a very interesting question: How long do they keep the lobsters in these crates? That was answered, at length, in the comments question of that post – and makes a very interesting read, unto itself as good questions usually do. Then, yesterday, the CBC news in Cape Breton reported this story about the lobster industry in Lousbourg, in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. We were just there last month, so this also hit home for me. (…soon to write about our Cape Breton travels)
When asked this question by Mira, I sought out the answers from Bernice: the price determines how long the lobster stay in the cars. When the price is between 4-6 a pound most fishermen sell that same day. A few years back the fishermen could not sell their lobster for a decent price, so they were kept in crates in the holding area in the lobster cars until there was a stable price. Some fishermen held them 5-6 weeks for a better price.
This is exactly what is happening right now in Cape Breton. There are risks when they do this:
- The quality of the water in the dock is not good;
- Some lobsters are weak and do not make it. In these cases, the fisherman looses.
As there is an incredible “supply glut” the lobster buyers in Cape Breton are doing whatever they can to keep thousands of lobsters alive until prices improve. When this happened in Pubnico in 2011-2012, the fishermen got together to try to open new markets and last year the price stablized.
Lobster fishermen families, and all fishermen families relate intimately to what is happening right now in Cape Breton. As Bernice says, “Nova Scotia fishermen [work very hard] trying to do a days work to be able to survive. They have no control on the price they will be getting and it is very hard to survive if this is your business.” Then she adds: “When all is well, it is very good, but it can change on a dime.” Right now, in Cape Breton, the prices have dropped to 4 dollars a pound.
The lobster fishermen in Cape Breton will still have the same expenses, regardless of the return: make payments, buy bait, pay the crew. And, it is hard to keep a crew member if there is no money to be made as crew members are usually paid by the money made from the catch.
Many have dropped prices and imposed boat quotas on hundreds of Nova Scotia lobster fishermen from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the Eastern Shore.
- Lobster buyers impose ‘unheard of’ quotas on N.S. fishermen
- Nova Scotia lobster fisheries shut down, some tied up in P.E.I.
- Lobster price squabbles hurt industry
Effective Friday, Eastern Shore fishermen were told buyers will take no more than 500 pounds (227 kilograms) per day. Further east in Guysborough County, 400 other fishermen have a 600-pound (272-kilogram) limit. There are also quotas in the Gulf. Warmer weather and big lobster landings in eastern Nova Scotia coincided with huge catches from the larger southwest Nova Scotia lobster fisher, [Pubnico, included, here] in the final week of their six-month season which ended May 31.
Jerry Amirault of the Lobster Processors Association says there’s just nowhere to put live lobster this week. “The system is clogged,” he said. The result has been a huge backlog of live lobsters. “Simply, that the catches have been overwhelming. Day after day of good fishing weather. Catches in some areas that have essentially doubled,” he said.