Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick are at odds over the size of lobsters that fishermen are allowed to catch in the Northumberland Strait.
New Brunswick wants to raise the minimum size by a mere 1/25 of an inch.
But lobster fishermen in PEI want to keep the size limit as it is.
They’ve built a market on selling smaller lobsters.
Anchor Marco Werman gets the latest on this lobster tale from The World’s Andrea Crossan.
Read the Transcript
The text below is a phonetic transcript of a radio story broadcast by PRI’s THE WORLD. It has been created on deadline by a contractor for PRI. The transcript is included here to facilitate internet searches for audio content. Please report any transcribing errors to firstname.lastname@example.org. This transcript may not be in its final form, and it may be updated. Please be aware that the authoritative record of material distributed by PRI’s THE WORLD is the program audio.
Marco Werman: There’s a battle going on between two provinces in Canada, and the claws are out. Lobster claws, that is. Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick are fighting over the size of lobsters that fishermen are allowed to catch. Andrea Crossan is our unofficial one-person Canada desk here at The World, and she’s been looking into this lobster tale. Alright Andrea, enough bad puns. Can’t two Canadian provinces just get along? What’s the dispute?
Andrea Crossan: Well, you would think so, Marco, but in these two provinces, the dispute is over a shared body of water that they have, and it’s called the Northumberland Strait, and it’s a prime location for lobster fishing. Now, New Brunswick wants to raise the minimum size of lobster that they can catch. Prince Edward Island wants to keep the size limit as it is, and here’s the thing. The difference that we’re talking about right now, it would be 1/25th of an inch.
Werman: 1/25th of an inch? I can’t even make my fingers go that small. Why would that matter, that size?
Crossan: I know it seems like nothing, Marco, but that’s where it would start. They would increase it by 1/25th of an inch, and then eventually they want the minimum size of a lobster to be about one quarter of an inch larger than it is now. And Marco, the bottom line, it’s always the bottom line – it’s about money, and it’s about who’s buying these lobsters. Prince Edward Island – the lobster fishermen – sell smaller lobsters. They’re called canners, and they sell them to European and Asian markets, the kind of thing that you would find at a buffet on a cruise ship or in a casino or someplace like that, someplace where you’re not going to have a big lobster tail on your plate. Now for New Brunswick, they want the bigger lobster. They want to sell to places like Red Lobster, where there’s a minimum size requirement, and they say that they won’t be able to catch the larger lobsters if Prince Edward Island catches them before they have a chance to grow.
Werman: So, I’m thinking of a lobster I might buy at the fish market I go to. What do they actually measure? I mean, where do they put the measuring tape? Is it tail to antenna?
Crossan: No, it’s actually not about the tail at all. It’s about the length of what is called the carapace. That’s the exoskeleton shell that covers the head and the abdomen of a lobster, so it needs to be slightly more than two and three quarter inches in length, and if a fisherman catches, gets caught catching, lobster smaller than that, then they get fined.
Werman: With lobster, isn’t bigger always better? I mean, don’t the fishermen just make more off a larger lobster?
Crossan: Yes and no. There is actually something special about this body of water. These smaller lobsters are unique to the Northumberland Strait. The water is warmer there, and it causes the lobsters to mature more quickly than they do in the Atlantic, and PEI has developed an industry around selling these smaller lobsters.
Werman: Now I keep hearing, at least in the past couple of year, there have been tons of lobster in the northeast. Aren’t there enough lobsters to catch, small ones and big ones?
Crossan: Well, that’s part of the problem. There is plenty of lobster. In fact, there’s too much. There’s been a glut on the market, and just ask a fisherman in Maine about the state of the market there. The prices are at a twenty year low. Canadian fishermen are getting as little as three dollars a pound for lobster, so fishermen on both sides of this issue are fighting to try and see how much of the catch they can hang on to.
Werman: Alright, my claws are back in. I think I got it. The World’s Andrea Crossan. Thank you.
Crossan: Thank you, Marco.
Copyright ©2012 PRI’s THE WORLD. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to PRI’s THE WORLD. This transcript may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without prior written permission. For further information, please email The World’s Permissions Coordinator at email@example.com.