The end of November is finally here, a very important time of year for our members on the South western Shore’s of Nova Scotia. Tomorrow, Wednesday, December 1st, it will be Dumping Day, and the opening of the lobster season. This day starts very early in the morning. Roy Alemao, a member of UCTE Local 80809 with 23 years of experience, works as an inspector for Transport Canada in Yarmouth. He says, “There’s a short ceremony with the blessing of the fleet at 6:00 a.m. with boats lined up and waiting at an imaginary line at Cape Forchu lighthouse. It’s kind of like the Lobster Olympics. Everyone is excited.”
Dumping Day in Nova Scotia marks the beginning of the season for Canada’s largest commercial lobster industry. For Shawn Jordan, a UCTE member from Local 80809 who works as an inspector with Transport Canada, it’s the calm before the storm.
“We’ve just finished inspecting all the boats due this year, to make sure conditions are as safe as possible. It’s the busiest day on the ocean,” he says.
Last year seemed to go well for him. Shawn has been working for Transport Canada for 15 years, inspecting boats, mostly for fishermen. He mentions that there are always incidents during the lobster season. Ropes fouled in the propellers, vessels develop mechanical problems and must be towed, people fall into the water, among other events. What you need to know is that Shawn stays alert throughout this day. “My team and I are sitting in the inspectors’ office hoping for the best but remaining alert to all kinds of calls,” he says.
Roy Alemao, who is also a Transport Canada inspector, says the day is a tradition in South West Nova. It’s part of the Maritime culture.
“It is a huge event. There are more than 1,000 boats lined up all over SW Nova ready to put their cages into the water in the drive to get the most out of the lobster fishery. You have to know that there are three to five fishermen per boat, an average of 4,000 people participating simultaneously on this day. The fishermen put their lobster cage in the water and come back the next day check traps and start hauling in the catch.”
The event, which takes place on the southwest shore of Nova Scotia, extends all the way to Halifax. Up to 99% of boats start the fishing season in south west Nova Scotia, making for heavy traffic and dangerous conditions in most of the ports. For 10 years now, Roy has witnessed Dumping Day in his area. “Every year we listen to the radio with our mobile phones in hand and hope that no problems occur.”
Timothy Robicheau, one of our Local 80808 members in charge of maintenance at Yarmouth Airport, says that, for him it’s a day to ensure that everything is ready and under control for the search and rescue team and the military. “We have a helicopter on site to make sure that, if needed, the rescue team can leave quickly,” he says. Timothy explains that the teams that receive communication asking for help are at the airport ready to respond to all calls.
Now, what happens in action? Paul Oliver, a member of the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) in local 80809, explains that he knows the risks of this day. “We have 10 to 20 calls a day to help fishermen,” he says. The conditions in this area can change very quickly, so you have to be mentally prepared. One team is positioned on the coast to respond to calls and the second is in action to ensure safety and to respond immediately to emergencies. “The first week after Dumping Day is usually the busiest of the year. Most fishermen make their money in the first three weeks.”
Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans told Global News that in the 2018-2019 season, fishermen in the region landed 28,753 tons of lobster worth about $513 million. This represents about 57 per cent of lobsters caught in Canada that season.
Paul says that this is a big event for the GCC, but one should know that, in addition to all the fishermen racing in Nova Scotia, there are many others fishing at the same time. It is a very busy time of year for him and his colleagues in the Maritimes.
Here is a short video to give you an idea of the conditions on this day:
In short, our members are a big part of community safety in Nova Scotia. UCTE would like to congratulate them for the good work they have done over the past few years and to thank them for the work they do every day. We can trust them.
Happy Dumping Day to all!