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Fortune Bay lobster fishery gets off to a slow start


Terrible weather conditions are being blamed for the slow start to this year's lobster fishery in Fortune Bay.

Exceptional windy conditions resulted in most fishers only being able to haul their pots three or four times during each of the first two weeks of the season, which opened on April 16.

Veteran fish harvester Ernest Follett of Grand Bank said his catch rate is down over 30 per cent compared to the first week or so of fishing last year. 

"It's not fit,” he said. “With the wind from the northeast, the lobsters just don't crawl.” 

Another factor may also have affected catch rates.

During the first week of the season, many of the Grand Bank lobster fishers had no choice but to use frozen herring for bait as very little fresh fish was available.

Luckily, the bait situation improved somewhat last week when the harvesters could purchase fresh herring.

Last year's lobster fishery in Fortune Bay was one of the best on record due to record-high prices and good catch rates. The opening price lobster fishers received in 2015 was $7.45 per pound, significantly higher than this year's early season price of $6.20.

The price paid to fish harvesters during the two-month lobster season fluctuates weekly. The 2015 average price worked out to $5.40 per pound.

Lloyd Grandy, 74, is the oldest inshore fisherman in Garnish. His wife and daughter fish with him, and like most local lobster fishers, he enjoyed a good season in 2015. 

It’s been rough so far this year, he said.

“Our catch for the first week was down at least 40 per cent, with most of the lobsters being small, averaging just over a pound each,” Grandy said.

"There's so many more people at it now compared to a few years ago. There are 44 lobster licenses being fished out of Garnish alone this year.  In the area from Grand Bank to Garnish, there are approximately 80 lobster boats fishing.”

In 2014, 2,100 metric tonnes of lobsters were sent to market from Newfoundland and Labrador, valued at over $18 million. Last year saw the catch total of the valuable crustaceans increase to 2,700 tonnes, with the value increasing to $32 million.

The lobster season in Fortune Bay closes the third week in June.

Exceptional windy conditions resulted in most fishers only being able to haul their pots three or four times during each of the first two weeks of the season, which opened on April 16.

Veteran fish harvester Ernest Follett of Grand Bank said his catch rate is down over 30 per cent compared to the first week or so of fishing last year. 

"It's not fit,” he said. “With the wind from the northeast, the lobsters just don't crawl.” 

Another factor may also have affected catch rates.

During the first week of the season, many of the Grand Bank lobster fishers had no choice but to use frozen herring for bait as very little fresh fish was available.

Luckily, the bait situation improved somewhat last week when the harvesters could purchase fresh herring.

Last year's lobster fishery in Fortune Bay was one of the best on record due to record-high prices and good catch rates. The opening price lobster fishers received in 2015 was $7.45 per pound, significantly higher than this year's early season price of $6.20.

The price paid to fish harvesters during the two-month lobster season fluctuates weekly. The 2015 average price worked out to $5.40 per pound.

Lloyd Grandy, 74, is the oldest inshore fisherman in Garnish. His wife and daughter fish with him, and like most local lobster fishers, he enjoyed a good season in 2015. 

It’s been rough so far this year, he said.

“Our catch for the first week was down at least 40 per cent, with most of the lobsters being small, averaging just over a pound each,” Grandy said.

"There's so many more people at it now compared to a few years ago. There are 44 lobster licenses being fished out of Garnish alone this year.  In the area from Grand Bank to Garnish, there are approximately 80 lobster boats fishing.”

In 2014, 2,100 metric tonnes of lobsters were sent to market from Newfoundland and Labrador, valued at over $18 million. Last year saw the catch total of the valuable crustaceans increase to 2,700 tonnes, with the value increasing to $32 million.

The lobster season in Fortune Bay closes the third week in June.

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