A travel journal about Prince Edward Island and the Maritimes would not be complete without a tribute to their lobster industry. Everywhere you go there is a lobster dinner or the famous lobster roll available to visitors. Some are excellent, like the lunch options you will find at the Chowder House at Point Prim or the Deck House in Summerside. Others are a rushed slap together job – tasty, but not worth the price – like you might find at Brackish on the Charlottetown Harbour. But despite the rampant popularity of the famous lobster roll, little is known about these hard working fishermen and women and the lives they lead to bring these delights to our tables. Most are up and working at 2am, toiling for over 12 hours a day and hauling in heavy traps every day during lobster season.
This is no simple task. While older traps are constructed of wood, the more modern trap is made of metal, but all are heavy, with a weighted block in the base to take them down. The season lasts for about 10 weeks, making for 70 or more very long working days, to say nothing of the preparation needed on either end of the actual day, and the season itself. Most boats will drop 150+ traps per day….starting in the wee hours of the night about 2am, most will not return to docks until late afternoon, making it a 12 to 14 hour work day. Lobster season is staggered on Prince Edward Island. On the east, it is May to June; on the west it is August to September. If you visit Miminegash harbour for sunset, you will find fishermen still hard at work, either dealing with the day’s catch or preparing for the outing in the wee hours of the following morning. The boats are lined up and ready to go…
Most fishermen will then extend the season into scallop or tuna or other seafood to support the export and tourism industry. Others are forced to seek alternate employment or assistance in winter months. Some very entrepreneurial types have other businesses to support themselves during the off months. Jason ran into Roger from Wood Islands on the ferry to Nova Scotia and learned about his farms producing honey and blueberries to add to the returns as a hard working lobster fisherman. Others head west for the winter to work in places like Alberta, returning in spring to the call of the ocean.
Signage in tourist areas and articles in the local lobster magazine tell the tales of popularity of PEI tuna to the Japanese, while literature out of Nova Scotia tells the story of Chinese takeover of Canadian lobster and fishing companies. One wonders where this will ultimately lead.
But in the meantime, enjoy the fruits of their labours and raise a glass in tribute to the hard working lobster fisherman!