Fate of lobster season still up in the air

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It looks like there will be rough waters ahead for the future of the lobster fishing season in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Northumberland Strait this year.

The season would normally open on May 1, but the interim president of the Northumberland Fisherman’s Association describes this year as “the perfect storm.”

Challenging current market conditions due the global COVID-19 pandemic make for challenging times for lobster fishers and processors, as well as wharf workers and fish plant workers.

Dennis McGee, who lives on Big Island and fishes out of Lismore, said in his 30 years on the water he has never experienced anything like the current situation.

“For anybody in the fishery who’s been in the fisheries for a good many years, for anybody that I know, it was never a question of can we sell our lobsters, it was always, what’s the price going to be. Now, with this COVID-19 virus, it’s putting all of the harvesters and their helpers and their crew members and the wharf people and the plant workers — it’s putting everybody at risk.”

The Gulf of Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board, for which McGee sits on the board of directors, has put together a proposal for federal government approval in consultation with all of the groups involved in Gulf Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI. The GNSFP is an organization that examines broad based issues and common concerns in the Gulf area. It looks at ways to improve the area’s fishery including the creation of programs.

“The vote that was sent out was not for harvesters to decide whether they want to go fishing or not. The vote was, if this proposal is good enough for the harvesters right now, do they want me to continue to work on it,” McGee said.

“Our biggest concern is the health of our harvesters. These are tough decisions everyone has to make.”

McGee said the proposal the Gulf board put together is for financial relief. “It is not an aid package. In no form will it be a cash payout,” he stressed. “It’s basically going to bridge the gap.”

He hopes the fisheries group will hear back from government by the end of next week.