t's one of the most
sustainable fisheries on Canada's Atlantic coast. Lobster has been
the mainstay of the Prince Edward Island fishery since it its
beginnings in the mid-1870s. It can be argued that Prince Edward
Islanders might never have developed a fishery of their own had it
not been for the experience gained in the early lobster industry.
Lobster is also a fishery that almost died in infancy. In the
mid-1880s - only ten years after the lobster boom began -
overfishing drove the stocks to dangerously low levels. The industry
stared collapse square in the face. It was saved by a combination of
regulation, cooperation and good luck. The history of this fishery
offers lessons - and warnings - for today and the future.
Catching Lobsters By Hand
(Harper's Magazine, 1877)
Lobsters live in shallow water, and were once so abundant you could
catch them by hand or with a pitchfork. Commercial fishermen relied
on a more sophisticated approach.
Double Headed Trap
(Scribner's Monthly, 1880)
North American lobster traps are based on the lobster pots used
for centuries in northern Europe. Simple in concept, they are one of
the most elegant pieces of fishing gear ever invented. Lobsters enter
the trap through a wooden ring called a "head". Once inside, the trap
simply takes advantage of the lobster's natural instincts. When
feeling threatened, a lobster will face the world with its claws
spread wide - making it very difficult to walk out the way it
came in. When feeling panicked, a lobster likes to flee backwards by
flexing its powerful tail. Either way, once in the trap, most lobsters
have little chance of finding a way out.
Date Created: May 18, 2001 | Last Updated: April 30, 2010