Lobster catches start out strong
Fishermen returning to port in Miminegash on Wednesday were not so much concerned with the size of their catch as they were with what they were throwing over.
“It’s scary,” said Peter Hustler, a fisherman’s helper with captain Michael Myers.
He estimated the number of lobsters he returned to the water, that would have been legal size last year, would have meant eight to 10 more pans of canners. “This is the scariest I’ve seen it.”
The carapace measure was increased by two millimetres this year following a 1-mm increase last year, and Myers had plenty to say about that.
“The measure is not going to prove out,” he said, suggesting federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc should have listened to P.E.I. fishermen’s pleas and trimmed the carapace increase to just 1 mm this year.
“I hope he can stop it for next year,” said Myers, mindful that another 2-mm increase is already scheduled for 2018.
“We definitely need a grace period.”
Myers said fishermen believe the increase is all politics. He said fishermen across the Northumberland Strait told them at meetings that P.E.I. had their turn with a federal fisheries minister, referring to former Conservative MP Gail Shea, and now it’s their turn.
LeBlanc is from New Brunswick.
Fishermen in New Brunswick had been lobbying for carapace increases while the Prince County Fishermen’s Association, of which Myers is a director, had resisted.
Fellow fisherman Dale Hustler was satisfied with his 2,000pound first-day catch although he suggested it was probably 300 pounds off his opening catch last year.
He said the impact of the unprecedented 2-mm increase will be even more evident as the landings decrease.
“We’d be well satisfied with one millimetre,” he said.
He suggested the change from last year’s 73 mm measure to this year’s 75 mm measure shrunk his first catch by 600 to 700 pounds.
Terry Gallant said those lobsters being thrown back in won’t be available to fall fishermen later if they migrate to the north side where the measure has been left at 72 mm.
Myers is also concerned about sacrificing lobsters to the spring season, stressing it is the fall fishermen who lose out.
“Once they migrate, they’re legal on that side.”
He is worried some fall fishermen won’t survive if the schedule is maintained.
Peter Hustler, right, displays a canner lobster that’s barely legal size, yet well within range according to last year’s gauge. Looking on is Kyle Doucette. Hustler suggested their boat threw over eight to 10 pans worth of lobster Wednesday that would have been legal size this year if the measure hadn’t increased.