The traditional start of the lobster season along Nova Scotia’s southwestern shores, commonly known as Lobster Fishing Areas (LFA) 33 and 34, begins the last Monday of November of each year and continues to the last day of the following May. There are 714 licensed lobster vessels in LFA 33 and 979 in LFA 34. Lobster traps consist of wooden or wire frames covered with nylon netting. The traps capture lobster live by attracting them through an entrance to the portion of the trap where the bait is located. As more lobsters enter the trap, the others move into a side “parlour.” Once inside the holding parlour, the larger lobsters are unable to escape.
Fishermen pride themselves on harvesting lobsters with a strong hard shell. Proper handling is paramount for lobster quality and health. Once landed aboard, lobsters are measured and graded, and undersized catch and egg-bearing females returned to the ocean. Rubber bands are fastened around lobster claws for safety and quality. They are then placed in crates where they remain until offloaded when the vessel returns to port.
Buyers, exporters and consumers have come to expect the very highest of quality in the lobsters that they purchase.
Lobsters don’t grow the way people do. Unlike humans, a lobster has a rigid exoskeleton that it must get rid of before it can grow any larger. This is known as “molting”. Before molting, lobsters reduce the size of their extremities by drawing water from them so their old shell isn’t too tight. Then, the shell breaks between the tail and the body (called the carapace). Lobsters will flex their bodies back and forth and eventually back out of their old shell. Without its shell, a lobster is soft and squishy.
The Lobster fishery is unique because unlike many others, it is not managed using a quota system. Access and effort in the fishery is regulated.