© John DeCoste - kingscountynews.ca
By John Lohr
Recently, I had the opportunity to travel down to Barrington Passage. It is a three-and-a-half hour drive southwest from the Valley and the change in weather was astonishing. Apparently, the golf course in the area opened the day I was there. There was no snow anywhere and the dull green grass of early spring looked pretty good. We haven't seen grass here in a long time. The purpose of the trip was to become better acquainted with the fishery industries in the area.
Barrington Passage, the Pubnicos and Tusket are home to lobster fishing area 34, the richest lobster fishery in the world. LFA 34 supplies 20 per cent of the lobster in the world. The guys I met described opening day lobster pots so full with lobster that the doors bulged out on the pots.
Last year, with a high Canadian dollar and record low prices, the industry was in such dire straits that a Maritime Lobster Panel was commissioned to study the industry. This year, with both of those situations somewhat reversed, the industry is breathing a little easier. My father always says the farmers will unite in adversity but bicker in prosperity. I suspect the same is true in the fisheries.
A primary recommendation in the report is that the industry get organized. This is a little hard for me to understand, as I know that the fishers will risk life and limb to rescue a fellow boat in trouble on the sea, but as a group, are famously unable to co-operate on land. Like every other industry in Nova Scotia, they are also facing a demographic crunch, with a substantial number of fishers set to retire in the next 10 years. I am sure the next generation will work together, if the clever young men I met are any indication, but there isn't time to wait.
The reasons to work together as a group are very compelling and I hope that the lobster fishers will get it together.
As a new MLA, I was very interested to learn how important the federal government is to the industry. Ottawa regulates fisheries, not the province. That’s not to say that Halifax isn't important, but any real change is a federal decision. As a new provincial politician, one of my key roles is to lobby the federal government. Just part of my education on how blurry the lines between federal, provincial and municipal issues really are. This has been a big surprise to me but should be a comfort to you, the public, to know that there is a very large conversation about everything happening all the time.