Lobster fishermen scramble for new traps after thousands destroyed in storm

Tuesday, 10 October 2017, 01:10:09 PM. Lobster fishermen in eastern Cape Breton are desperately trying to find traps to replace those destroyed in a weekend windstorm. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says thousands of traps were lost.

People in Cape Breton are rallying to help lobster fishermen after stormy seas drove traps onto the rocks over the weekend, destroying expensive gear and killing crustaceans.

  • Rough seas destroy traps, kill lobster in Cape Breton

The weather station on St. Paul Island reported a northwest peak wind gust of 93 km/h. 

The hardest hit area was the northeastern coast from Dingwall to Glace Bay, according to Paul Gentile, the eastern Nova Scotia area director for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. 

The number of destroyed traps is in the thousands, the department has said. By Wednesday, between 2,000 and 3,000 replacement tags had been issued, Gentile said.

The orange plastic tags from the department identify the traps. Fishermen are permitted 275 traps each.

Fishermen lose more than half their traps

Osborne Burke, manager of Victoria Co-operative Fisheries in New Haven, said some fishermen lost as many as 150 of their 275 traps.

Burke spent Tuesday trying to round up replacement traps.

"We are looking at maybe 300 traps that we can source, that we are going to provide to the individuals that were hit the hardest," he said.

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Victoria Co-operative Fisheries in New Haven, Cape Breton, is trying to buy 300 traps it can donate to local fishermen. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

Burke said the co-op made arrangements with a seller in Chéticamp to buy traps at a reduced price, which would then be donated to affected fishermen.

Used traps selling for as little as $5

New traps can cost between $50 and $75, but Burke said he expected to pay between $10 and $12. He said good, used traps are being sold to fishermen for as little as $5.

Clayton MacKinnon, the wharf manager for Victoria Co-operative Fisheries, said he estimates fishermen are losing about $8,000 a day while trying to replace traps.

The lobster season in eastern Cape Breton began last week, and "the first two weeks is the best fishing," he said. 

"That's where you get most of your lobster and where they don't have their gear in the water, they are really missing out on the catches," he said.

"It's very challenging. I hear from the fishermen they are having a lot of trouble finding traps."

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The Department of Fisheries and Oceans confirms thousands of traps were lost. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

Monica Hogan of Neils Harbour said fishermen in her community, as well as New Haven and Ingonish, didn't suffer too much damage, so they are donating extra traps to others in need.

"People north of Smokey are pulling together to help," she said.

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