Har­vesters help­ing har­vesters

Lob­ster fish­ers help­ing oth­ers get back on wa­ter af­ter traps dam­aged by high winds

Cape Breton Post - - Front Page - BY GREG MCNEIL

Cape Bre­ton lob­ster fish­ers are ral­ly­ing around each other af­ter wind de­stroyed hun­dreds of traps in the early days of the new sea­son.

High winds over the week­end hit those who fish from Bay St. Lawrence to Smelt Brook hard, leav­ing some har­vesters with as many as 175 of their al­lowed 275 traps dam­aged.

“If it hap­pens af­ter the first month that is one thing,” said Os­borne Burke, gen­eral man­ager of the Vic­to­ria Co-op­er­a­tive Fish­eries. “(But) in the first week of the sea­son, af­ter the first day, if you are try­ing to scrounge up used gear and patch gear, it is kind of heart­break­ing.”

Burke said lob­ster fish­ers have just a two-month win­dow to gen­er­ate a full year’s liveli­hood and the first week of the sea­son is of­ten the most im­por­tant one for catch sizes.

In the case of the lob­ster fish­ers who suf­fered dam­age to traps in the first week of the sea­son, some were able to bring in one haul of traps, while oth­ers weren’t that lucky.

An in­for­mal sur­vey of the area in­di­cated those who fish to the west were hit worse than oth­ers. Half of the es­ti­mated 35 boats that leave Bay St. Lawrence suf­fered trap dam­age.

Luck­ily, many fish­ers im­me­di­ately stepped for­ward to help those hit hard­est by the wind dam­age.

“There were a num­ber of fish­er­man that of­fered some used traps at $5 a trap,” he said. “Some fish­er­men in the In­go­nish area do­nated 100 traps and used gear they have.

“They ac­tu­ally took it over to Bay St. Lawrence — hauled it over on a trailer them­selves.”

The Vic­to­ria Co-op Fish­eries added to the re­lief ef­forts by ob­tain­ing 300 used wooden traps from a fish­er­man in Cheti­camp.

They picked the lob­ster traps up on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon and im­me­di­ately de­liv­ered them to mem­bers in ar­eas such as Smelt Brook and White Point.

“Ba­si­cally, com­mu­nity is what co-op is. We try to help as many mem­bers as we can,” he said.

“Other fish­ers are call­ing and of­fer­ing gear that they have at a very re­duced price. Ev­ery­body is try­ing to help in one way or the other.”

Burke is not sur­prised by the fish­ing com­mu­nity’s ef­forts to help one an­other.

“In the worst of things hap­pen­ing, the best comes out, too,” he said. “All the fish­er­men fish com­pet­i­tively but at the same time when some­one breaks down or some­thing hap­pens on the wa­ter, or some­thing like this hap­pens, a lot of in­di­vid­u­als will put their best foot for­ward.”

Har­vesters in har­bours from Alder Point to Port Morien also lost thou­sands of dol­lars and their time when their traps were blown on­shore and smashed by high winds this past week­end.

Paul Gen­tille, a Fish­eries and Oceans area di­rec­tor, said har­vesters from the tip of Cape Bre­ton to well past Fourchu had traps im­pacted by the week­end of wind in some form or an­other.

“There’s a large num­ber of har­vesters that would have had lost or dam­aged traps, some not as bad as oth­ers but nev­er­the­less many, many har­vesters were im­pacted,” he said.

De­spite the ob­vi­ous setbacks, he called the Cape Bre­ton lob­ster har­vesters a “re­silient” group.

“Those in­di­vid­u­als that work on the wa­ter are ex­perts at it and they work in very dif­fi­cult con­di­tions. They are at work today. I saw a large por­tion of the fleet out work­ing.”

To help them quickly re­turn to the wa­ters, Fish­eries and Oceans has had many con­ver­sa­tions with tag sup­pli­ers and har­vesters to en­sure pa­per­work is fi­nal­ized and re­place­ment gear is le­gal be­fore it is put in the wa­ter.

“In fair­ness, the stake­hold­ers them­selves that are on the wa­ter are the ones do­ing the heavy lift­ing,” he said. “They are re­triev­ing and re­pair­ing and re­plac­ing traps at the end of their day. They are putting in a very full sched­ule to make things work.”

Though many traps were dam­aged, there have yet to be any re­ports of dam­age to ves­sels or small craft har­bour fa­cil­i­ties.

No re­quests have been made to ex­tend the sea­son, he said.


Vic­to­ria Co-op­er­a­tive Fish­eries Ltd. em­ploy­ees Colin MacDon­ald (in front), David Fraser and Lawrence MacKin­non as­sist in load­ing lob­ster traps onto a truck in Cheti­camp on Wed­nes­day. Vic­to­ria Co-op Fish­eries pur­chased the used lob­ster traps at a re­duced rate from Ricky Har­ris of Cheti­camp to do­nate to fish­ers from Bay St. Lawrence to Smelt Brook, Vic­to­ria Co., who lost hun­dreds of traps in high winds last week­end.


Us­ing a trac­tor, lob­ster fish­er­man Al­fred De­veau of Grand Etang vol­un­teered to load traps onto a truck bound for fish­ing wharves from Bay St. Lawrence to Smelt Brook, Vic­to­ria Co. on Wed­nes­day. The traps left Cheti­camp with the as­sis­tance of Vic­to­ria Co-op­er­a­tive Fish­eries Ltd. em­ploy­ees Colin MacDon­ald, David Fraser and Lawrence MacKin­non, who as­sisted in load­ing the traps onto the truck. High winds last week­end de­stroyed hun­dreds of lob­ster traps, which were only set a week ago, putting a sig­nif­i­cant dent into the liveli­hoods of many fish­er­men in Cape Bre­ton.

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