Hard times hard decisions

Carol Hopkins
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Couple considers calling it quits from lobster industry

After repeated poor seasons, Andrew Harvey and his wife, Sandy, are seriously considering getting out of the lobster fishery. — Submitted photos

Boswarlos — Andrew Harvey is considering selling his lobster licence back to government after a second year of poor harvesting of the species.

It is getting to the point that fishing for lobster is just not worth it, Harvey said.

Harvey has been a lobster fisherman for 34 years. His wife, Sandy, joined him in his work 25 years ago — both are core fishers.

The decision on whether or not to quit the fishery has not yet been made but a wide variety of circumstances are making the couple seriously reconsider their future in the industry.

This season the low price being paid for lobster coupled with the high cost of gas, the price for bait and other related costs leaves little profit Harvey said.

“Back 25 years ago we were getting $3.25 a pound for our lobster,” Harvey said, “this year, at the moment, we’re still only getting $3.65 a pound.”

He pointed out that the cost of gasoline was much less 25 years ago as were the overall costs associated with fishing. Added to the high costs is the worry about the declining number of lobster being caught.

Harvey said last year the number of lobster he and his wife harvested was down to about half that of the previous year. This year the number is down to half that again. In addition they are seeing fewer small lobster, which are thrown back to allow them to grow for the next season.

It is an indication that next year’s catch will be equally dismal, he said.

“Keep in mind it takes seven years for a lobster to reach legal size, from the time it hatches to the time we catch it and put our measure on it,” Harvey said.

Harvey said the decimation of such species as lumpfish and the overfishing of caplin, herring, and mackerel has also had a bearing on lobster stocks because lobster feed on the roe of these species.

“Back 25 years ago we were getting $3.25 a pound for our lobster. This year, at the moment, we’re still only getting $3.65 a pound.” Andrew Harvey

Years ago, there were also factory freezer ships that also made an impact on the fishery as a whole and inadvertently on the lobster fishery he said.

“(This year) even seiners didn’t get any herring and there is very few mackerel in the bay,” Harvey said. “There’s something seriously wrong.”

Harvey remembers much better times in the fishery, a time when he had to hire extra help to harvest the lobster.

But that hasn’t been the case for the past year or two. He said they used to make a fair living at it, but it came to a point where his helper was actually making more money than he and his wife combined.

He had no choice but to lay the helper off he said.

“We had probably 12 or 15 good years and probably four or five exceptional years and after that it just went downhill,” he said.

He reminisced about times past when he couldn’t wait to get out of bed in the morning to go out on the water. Weather never bothered him and he fished regardless of wind, rain or cold. It never bothered him because he was making a decent living at it he said.

However, the desire to go fishing is no longer there.

The dangers of the occupation combined with the poor catch and little money has cooled any passion for the work.

“If I’m offered a decent buyback, yes I’ll get out of it — definitely — both of us,” Harvey said. “If you had asked me that question four or five years ago I wouldn’t have even entertained the idea. But now, yes, without hesitation I would get out of the fishery.”

The Western Star

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  • Iain Prentice
    May 31, 2011 - 14:08

    I am so sorry to read this news. It appears the fishing industry has been left high and dry. Newfoundland should fight back its right to cull seals and get the whole ecosystem flourishing again. Cannot understand how an outside famous musician can decimate a livelihood.. Wish there was something i could do..