Opinion: The Reason for No Season – Jim O’Connell

These are 2 females. The black shelled female on the left did not shed this year for the first time skipping the yearly shed. It now has eggs. It was a pound and a half and does not have to shed every year anymore. That gives it the opportunity and time to carry the eggs under its tail for 9 to 12 months while they go through three different color changes before they hatch. The lobster plans for them to hatch in June – July for the abundance of plankton at the surface, where they drift and swim around for weeks, till they settle to the bottom.

The biologists keep a log on how many settlers they count every year and can take an educated guess on how many lobsters there will be 6 years down the road. They call it the settlement rate. Maine’s is looking good. Mass is hurting.

Mass has a hard time sustaining it’s population and one of the reasons may be because they have been depleting the prolific jumbos for decades. Basically selling trophy lobsters.

I talked with a fisherman in Mass who informed me some of the lobster zones have quit taking jumbos and after 7 years are seeing an improvement to their numbers.

Personally I sold Jumbos at my family’s shellfish store as a third generation operator. Back in the 70’s they were cheaper than the small ones by a large margin because they don’t taste as good. That changed as they became scarcer and they became trophy’s. A jumbo has 100,000 eggs. 10 x a small lobster. They can mate as hard shells and don’t shed very often.

Maine’s long standing ban on keeping jumbos appears to be the key to Maine’s success. Over the past 5 years Maine’s catch has increased at a faster pace than Canada’s, 56% to 32%. Canada has a seasonal fishery and they have always caught the jumbos, It may take 7 years to build up Canada’s and the Massachusetts jumbo population to a point that it sustains the population like Maine.

The lobsters in the picture are both females. The one on the right with no black on its claw is a 1¼ pounder that shed this Spring. What you see is mostly the meat that was in a ¾ lb. lobster Slightly soft and Sweet tasting. Some call them new shells. They are still sexually immature. We had bought 2 of the smaller females and not an egg in sight in either of them. The black claw female lobster that is 1 ½ pounds is a lobster you want to protect at least till mid July when the eggs berry out onto the tail making them illegal to catch and possibly notched for further protection during the nine to twelve months it carries the eggs under it’s tail.

In the meantime, there is a good way to increase total landings and be able to fish year round for the whole lobster fishery. Presently in Canada, the DFO has their fishermen making a mad dash in the spring, just before the molt, on these skip molts, black shell females, who are about to extrude their eggs in the following month after the molt in the late spring/early summer time frame. These are the ones that need protection. A ban on the black shell females would best be from April 1 to July 15. Basically no one is fishing Jan to March so there is no reason to penalize the few who dare fish mid winter. Chances are by adopting this easily visible, enforceable regulation you will be notching more berried females to insure further years of protection on the proven breeders.

Back to Thanksgiving. There is a huge problem that has turned into a mob of 200 sworn DFO adherents destroying an Indigenous persons freezer factory and chasing two of the workers into an accessory building threatening to burn it down throwing rocks through the windows. Burnt their truck up. Odds were 200 to 2. They were carrying signs that said a season for a reason in support for the Canadians divisive draconian fishing regulation that forces the lobster men out to fish from Nov to May. All under the illusion that it is the magic pill for sustaining the biggest population of bugs possible. They close the fishery in June just before the molt till Nov. Canceling the nicest weather of the year with tons of hungry shedders. That is when Maine and Mass are out slaying the hungry lobsters.

This is when the First Nation people used to fish. Lobsters go deep in winter. Obviously they were not out on the ocean in the middle of winter. They broke out of the DFO seasonal rules and are fishing during the better weather and higher catch, year round if they want.

The First Nations have publicly come out and said they want to improve the regulations on the present method for sustainability. From where I’m standing if the First Nations would adopt this regulation plus ban Jumbos as Maine has done they would have the most sustainable lobster fishery in the world and would be recognized by the eco conscious buyer, looking for an all natural fresh caught off the boat year round and sustainably managed lobster.

Canada is not protecting the reproductive potential with it’s seasonal rules. They force the lobstermen to throw the baby out with the bath water. Lobstermen who are trying to make a living for the whole year in two months are targeted on the most important lobster for reproduction. The DFO has the lobstermen slaying the black shell females in May and June before the molt then shuts the whole fishery down at great cost to the guys who must remove millions of traps and miss out on possibly millions of pounds of the sweetest hungry shedders filling out their bigger shells and filling out everyone’s pockets who are involved in the lobster industry which will bubble up profits in the communities they live in. whereby bringing new money into their small coastal communities

It looks like the season for a bad reason is a reason to get rid of the season for a reason.

Jim O’Connell
Bar Harbor Maine
[email protected]