“Tense, a hard day” was the way Melanie Sonnenberg, project manager for the Grand Manan Fishermen’s Association (GMFA), described set day for the island’s lobster fishermen on Nov. 13.

She was describing both the weather conditions and the prospects for a successful season this year. Before set day was over a report came in that a boat, Big Sister, from neighboring Beaver Harbour on the New Brunswick mainland had capsized taking the life of the vessel’s captain, Clifford Nodding. Three crewmen, however, were rescued by a nearby fishing boat.

A report by the CBC quoted the crew members stating that Nodding’s last act was to throw life jackets to his crew and then to stay aboard to make a Mayday call. The accident occurred near an area known as “The Wolves” in the Bay of Fundy.

“The weather was a little more aggressive than we thought it would be,” Sonnenberg said. “It was blustery, pouring rain. Everybody got soaked to the skin. It was not a great start to the season.”

She said that fishermen were worried about the season itself even before set day. Noting that lobster prices in other areas of the Maritimes have been low she added, “Price is the most important thing.” On November 21, Grand Manan buyer MGF was offering $4.50 per pound. A year ago, the price was $5.

Other worries for fishermen are the value of the Canadian dollar against its U.S. equivalent (see story, page 1).

“But the big one is the price of fuel,” Sonnenberg said. “We’ve never seen it this high. Fishermen are wondering what, if anything, they’ll have left at the end of the day. It’s going to be a tough season for everybody.”

On a positive note, Sonnenberg said that right whales, which visit the area annually and can become entangled in fishing gear “left the bay like they normally would.”

She added that 136 license holders left port on set day. The season ends on June 19, but Sonnenberg noted, “A lot of fishermen bring their gear in at Christmas.”

— Bob Gustafson