About the Fishery
Harvesting lobster along the rugged Atlantic Coast is steeped in tradition and aside from some advances in boat and gear technology, little has changed in the past 150 years. The day for lobster fishers typically begins before the sun rises and long before most people have even thought about having their first cup of morning coffee. Work begins by cutting the bait, which is usually herring or mackerel and preparing the boat and gear for the upcoming day. As dawn breaks, usually around 5 a.m., the boats head out to the open water to check their traps.
Most of the lobster fishery in Canada is conducted within 15 kilometers of shore. This is close enough for the boats to return each day but sufficiently far enough from shore that the harshness of the North Atlantic must be fully respected. Each lobster fisher has uniquely colored buoys identifying their trap locations. As the boat nears the buoy, the lines are secured by gaffe (long pole with a hook on the end) and secured to an electronic hauler where they are pulled out of the water.
The lobsters are carefully examined and their carapace length is measured with a metal gauge to insure it is of legal size. Undersize and berried females (egg-bearing) are returned to the sea. While this method of harvesting lobster is highly labor intensive, it is ecologically sensitive to the environment and maintains the integrity of the ocean floor with minimal disruption. After the lobster are removed, the traps are re-baited and placed back in the water.
The number of traps available for each lobster license varies from one LFA (Lobster Fishing Area) to another, however they typically range from 200 to 300 traps. Depending on the number of traps and distance from shore, most lobster fishers have checked and re-baited their traps and have returned to shore by mid-afternoon.
At shore the boats unload their catches directly into the processing facilities or into waiting refrigeration trucks that will transport the lobsters to nearby processing plants. Lobsters are generally separated into two groups: those being sold as a live product and those destined for processing into various product forms. Lobsters that are to be sold live will be sent to holding facilities while those being processed are briefly stored in refrigeration units until they are cooked or processed for raw meat products, usually the same night they were caught.
New processing and packaging technology allows processors to quick-freeze whole cooked lobsters and processed lobster meat. Quick freezing preserves the natural juices and flavors providing the highest quality product. The short time between harvesting and processing ensures that when consumers select processed Canadian Lobster, they can be assured that the product they are eating tastes
as fresh as the day it was caught.
All lobster processing facilities are provincially licensed and federally registered to ensure that the highest quality of food safety and handling practices are employed. Part of the licensing requirements stipulates that each processor has satisfied the requirements of internationally recognized QMP standards (Quality Management Program). This program is enforced and monitored by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency through regular plant audits.