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Nova Scotia lobster industry gets creative during COVID-19 pandemic

Lobster fishers get creative as market grinds to a halt
WATCH: Lobster fishermen in Nova Scotia are striving to find creative ways of selling their backlog of inventory, while implementing COVID-19 safety measures.

Lobster was Nova Scotia’s most valuable export in 2019, but this year, export markets have ground to a halt due to COVID-19.

That has left the province’s lobster fisherman finding creative ways to sell their catch — with safety measures in place.

“I’ve asked people to call ahead, so I can have their order ready. That way, I just take it to their vehicle and they open up their trunk and I just set it in their trunk,” said Bryce Hirtle, a fisherman on Nova Scotia’s south shore.

Bryce Hirtle
Bryce Hirtle is a lobster fisherman from the south shore. He’s been selling his lobster through a telephone, delivery service. People put their orders in and he bags them up and places the lobster in their trunks. Submitted/Bryce Hirtle

Hirtle isn’t only fisherman trying to find new ways to sell his lobster inventory.

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Andy Swain of Port La Tour, near Shelburne, N.S., is also striving to find ways to make a profit.

He loaded up his truck and drove to Halifax this week, setting up shop in a Walmart parking lot.

Swaine instructed people to yell their orders from their car. He would then bag up the lobster and drop them on the ground near the customer’s vehicle.

Lobster industry taking a hit over coronavirus
Lobster industry taking a hit over coronavirus

After that, money was placed into a bucket, attached to a long pole.

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With the entire seafood market at a standstill, Swaine said, it’s just a matter of trying to find ways of surviving and selling what they can, where they can.

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“The borders are closed. New York’s shut down, Boston’s pretty much shut down, the world’s pretty much shut down,” Swaine said.

“[Lobsters] have a shelf life and you have to get rid of them, they have to go.”

Provincial fisheries minister Keith Colwell has said that he’s having regular meetings with other Atlantic provinces and Quebec ministers responsible for fisheries and aquaculture.

The aim is to find ways of supporting an industry that is collapsing under the pressures of the COVID-19 outbreak.

On Thursday, federal fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan, posted an update to her Twitter page, saying members of the seafood industry can access support through the newly announced Canadian Emergency Support Benefit.

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READ MORE: Emergency coronavirus benefit could be a model for future aid programs: minister

According to the Nova Scotia government, lobster exports totalled $1.2 billion in 2019.

This season, the global market has shut out opportunities for lobster industries around the globe and Nova Scotia.

“With the COVID-19 issue we’ve just seen our markets around the world collapse — North America and Europe now being impacted dramatically. Asia’s coming back a little bit with live lobster but very, very slowly,” said Geoff Irvine, the executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada.

Irvine says members of Lobster Fishing Areas (LFA) around the province are struggling with what steps to take during a time when the market isn’t available for their product to be sold.

“It’s just a very uncertain time and that goes right to the harvesters who will have to decide if they’ll want to go fishing, or not. Every lobster license is fishing in the coming months, so a lot of uncertainty,” Irvine said.

How to support local businesses through COVID-19 pandemic
How to support local businesses through COVID-19 pandemic

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.