Fishermen hooked on hope in preparation of lobster season

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Prices this year ‘supposed to be better but we don't know for sure'

BARRACHOIS - Cold rain is pelting the windows of My Three Girls, as it bobs gently at the Barrachois wharf under a grey, overcast sky.

Barrachois fishermen Roy MacKenzie, left, and Eric Halverson are keen to get started on this year's lobster fishing season. Fishermen are to head out to sea on Wednesday prior to the first day of harvest on May 1.

Inside the small cabin, skipper Eric Halverson, 52, and fellow lobster fisherman Roy MacKenzie, 48, who captains the neighbouring JJJ, chat about the pending start of the season. The pair are awaiting word on whether their season will be delayed because of potentially high wind conditions on Wednesday, the first day in advance of the May 1st start of the season, when lobster fisherman are permitted to place their traps in the water.

"Cold, wet and windy," Halverson says of the weather so far into this spring, although he could as easily have been speaking of this day or even the forecast for the next few days ahead.

For lobster fisherman in this part of the Northumberland Strait, this is a time of uncertainty as they wait for things to get underway.

Each year is a gamble and all they can do is work on hope - hope that the weather will not delay the opening or cost them other days throughout the short season, which runs from May 1 to June 30;

hope that the lobster that make their way into their traps will be bountiful, and, hope that their catches will be above the $3.50 per lb. the fishermen received for their market-sized lobsters at the end of last season.

"I'm always hoping for the best," MacKenzie says, with a wry smile, as he recalls the dismal time that fishermen had last year because of low prices.

Last year's shore prices for lobster were the lowest in decades - by some accounts, the lowest in a generation - which led to fishing boats across the Maritimes being temporarily tied to the docks. The move did not have the desired effect, however, and the fishermen ultimately had to return to the water without the demanded increase to make what they could.

"They're supposed to be better but we don't know for sure," Halverson says, of this year's prices, which will not be determined until the first lobster are landed.

Reports from other parts of the province where fishing is already underway, however, offer some optimism from indications that wharf prices are in the $6.50 range.

"But the prices, you never know. That's the problem," MacKenzie says.

With a minimum of $2,500 required just to prepare for the first trip out to sea (providing you already have a boat and gear) and seasonal costs that can reach as much as $20,000, however, MacKenzie and Halverson alike say the lower prices simply add to the struggle to remain financially afloat.

And once again, for now at least, it comes back to hope.

A short while later, at least, even as the rain intensifies and the day's grey clouds remain steadfastly in place, the fishermen receive news that they will be able to head out as scheduled to put their traps in place.

"It's a go for Wednesday," Halverson says. "Good to get going."

Twitter: @tdnharry



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