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THE QUEBEC REGION BULLETIN
JUNE - JULY 2011/VOLUME 14/NUMBER 3
At 5 o'clock in the morning on May 7, 2011, the Magdalen Islands lobster harvest kicked off with its 325 lobster harvesters taking to the water to set their traps. Every year, the event—celebrated throughout the islands—signals the awakening of economic activity on the Islands. In fact, restaurants remained open all night long to feed the crews as they went about their final preparations on the day their season opened.
Blessing of the boats on the wharf at Grande-Entrée.
The evening before, there was a religious service in honour of the harvesters in the village of Grande-Entrée which was also broadcast on the local radio. During the ceremony, 18 new lobster harvesters, accounting for 6 percent of the fleet, each received a buoy from his or her predecessor: a moving moment. A floral wreath was then cast from the wharf in memory of those lost at sea. Year after year, opening day activities draw a number of local, provincial and federal elected officials.
Present at nine harbours
To ensure the safe and simultaneous departure of the lobster boats from the nine Islands harbours, our conservation and protection services had to make use of all the resources available to them. The Islands fishery officers could count on the assistance of officers from other maritime areas and on the Canadian Coast Guard patrol vessel Le Québécois to help them on the water. On land, the flares signalling the departure of the lobster boats were fired by employees of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and other departments as well as by civil associates.
Although the departure time had to be respected, the main concern was safety. This is a major challenge, particularly at the Grande-Entrée harbour where 125 boats are moored, making it the largest fishing harbour in Quebec.
The spring winds didn’t make the task easy, delaying harbour maintenance dredging work. But the DFO staff responsible for fishing harbours kept a close eye on the work to make sure boats could access the harbours safely and that the fishing season could open as early as possible... on May 7.
Solidarity in the face of adversity
Shortly after the departure of the lobster boats, the Canadian Coast Guard had to tow a harvester’s boat to the Pointe-Basse harbour at Havre-aux-Maisons. Although the lobster fishery is competitive and the first days are often the best, the fishers once again manifested their legendary solidarity. In fact, several lobster harvesters extended their own day by dividing up the unfortunate fisher’s traps and setting them for him… a noteworthy action.
Magdalen Islands Area
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