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Lobster Header

Lobster fishing is Prince Edward Island’s most famous and historically most successful fishery. It is an important part of our heritage and a source of great pride to Islanders. In the not too distant past, lobsters were so abundant that they were used as fertilizer on farmers’ fields. Today, however, the heretofore humble lobster has acquired the status of delicacy; its delicate white meat hidden under a bright red shell once cooked.

The type of lobster we fish is called the American lobster (Homarus americanus). It is found only on the eastern coast of North America from Labrador in the north to North Carolina in the south. The richest fisheries are located in southern Nova Scotia and the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence (around Prince Edward Island) where the lobsters thrive in coastal waters, on rocky bottoms to depths of 40 fathoms. When alive, a lobster is usually greenish-blue, speckled with dark spots. A decapod crustacean, it has ten legs and a crust-like shell. The large front claws are effective in capturing food and warding off enemies. The lobster’s powerful tail muscles enable the animal to shoot backwards quickly when startled or in danger. Feeding on a diet of other crustaceans, fish, and shellfish, a seven year-old lobster weighs about one pound and measures 9 1/2 inches in length.
A heavy gale in August 1873 drove lobsters ashore for miles along the north coast of Prince Edward Island, one to five feet deep. While this was a unique occurrence, it does confirm the abundance of lobster in our waters. It was inevitable that we would turn this abundance to our advantage and derive from it a lucrative industry. During the days of early settlement, lobsters were picked from the rocks on shore, then Islanders fished them using dip nets and poles and, later, boats propelled by oars or sails. Today, lobster fishers employ state-of-the-art technology, from radar devices and depth finders to high-powered engines.

The most commonly used lobster trap in Prince Edward Island is the “parlour” type trap, which has a flat bottom. The sides and top are arched, shaped like a semi-circle. The trap has two funnel-shaped openings called “heads” though which lobsters pass in search of food; frequently used baits include herring, mackerel, flounder, and perch. Once inside, another “head” leads to a section called the “parlour,” from which the lobsters cannot escape. The traps are weighted with stones to make them sink and up to ten traps are attached to one main line. Their position is marked by a buoy coloured brightly to differentiate the traps of many fishers.

Lobster fishing seasons vary in each of the three fishing zones around the Island. In Zones 24 and 26, along the north shore, from North Cape in the west to East Point (Zone 24) and along the south and eastern shore, from Victoria Harbour east to East Point (Zone 26), the lobster season lasts from April 30 until June 30. In Zone 25, which extends from North Cape south along the coast and then east to Victoria Harbour, the season begins on August 9 and ends on October 10.

On the Island, lobster may be purchased live in the shell or freshly cooked in the shell and are sold as canners, weighing between 1/2 and 3/4 pounds (250–375 grams) or as markets weighing over 3/4 pounds. Lobster is also sold as cold pack (the meat is frozen in cans), hot pack (the meat is heat processed in cans), cocktail, chowder, paste, or frozen whole in the shell.

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Aquaculture | Shellfish | Finfish | Specialty Markets