A much larger sector of Nova Scotia’s industry is lobster fishing. When European settlers first started establishing themselves in North America, the lobster stock was so large that with every storm, lobsters would be washed ashore for up to a half meter on the beaches. Back then lobster was a source of food for only the poorest segment of the population living along the coast. The actual lobster boom started in Maine, USA.
By the mid 18th century, the lobster trade was already in full bloom. In 1885, an amount of 130,000,000 pounds of lobster was caught and brought to market. During those days, lobster was not yet shipped alive; the lobster was boiled and mostly tinned. At the end of the 18th century, many consumers complained about lobster’s high price (it was 10 cents a pound at the time). Nowadays fisherman can obtain prices ranging from $5.50 to $6.50 CAN. Incidentally, today’s “Maine” lobster mostly comes from Canada.
The world record for the largest caught lobster (and for blue-fin tuna) was set in Nova Scotia. The lobster weighed an incredible 44 Pounds, 6 ounces (22.12 kilos) and measured 4 feet (1.22 meters)! Taking into account that it takes 6 to 7 years for a lobster to gain the weight of one pound, the age of this Lobster was estimated to be between 60 to 70 years.
Shipbuilding was the major industry of Nova Scotia at the beginning of the 18th century. When this came to an end the locals relied on lobster fishing. On the Northumberland Coast (in the north of Nova Scotia) alone, hundreds of lobster “factories” were working flat out to accommodate the thousands of fishing boats that brought in their daily catches for processing.
The processing factories are history. Nowadays only small amounts of lobster are still being tinned; the majority of sales are made merchandising and shipping live lobster (mostly by airfreight) worldwide.
Many centuries before the first settlers set foot in Nova Scotia the native Mi’kmaqs had already been fishing lobster. The Mi’kmaq word for lobster is “Wolum Keeh”.
They ate lobsters, fertilized crops with them and used their shells for jewelry.
The European settlers followed the first two Mi’kmaq examples, but did not make lobster jewelry. In those days the lobster trap had yet to be invented and so lobsters were caught with a spear and hook; during quiet nights the shellfish were searched for with seal oil lamps and by using cod heads as bait.
As in most other industries, much has happened in this field over the last hundred years: lobster fishing is now strictly monitored to ensure the protection of this delicate seashell species and highly priced licenses must be purchased to participate in the catch. On average, the lobster fishing season lasts 4 to 6 months. Nova Scotia has a highly sustainable lobster population thanks to this well thought out and monitored system: the Atlantic coast is divided into 41 coastal sections and the on/off fishing seasons are rotated in these sections to guarantee lobster fishing all year round.