Day 3: Shediac, N.B.
hese days, the lobster traps snare
more customers, fewer crustaceans
Tuesday, August 8, 2000
In Canada's lobster capital, in a town that uses a giant shellfish to welcome visitors, in a community that is so endeared to the prehistoric creature that it throws festivals in its honour, in a seaside resort that serves lobster for breakfast and on pizza, one of the great tragedies of our times is unfolding.
In the bathlike waters around Shediac, there are no more lobsters.
Serge, a Shediac builder who picked me up on the road outside Moncton, says the harvest has not been good since his grandfather's time, when the old man trapped every day -- and drank a pint of the hard stuff -- until he died at 87.
Guy, a truck driver who gave me a lift south toward Prince Edward Island, says the situation is so dire he hauled a load of lobster last week from -- and this surely is worse than Izzy Asper's use of American programming -- Maine. How else would the Shediac restaurants feed the droves of Québécois who come here every August.
The lobster debacle is hardly evident on Shediac's main street, where lobster is advertised in every other store, or on its wharf, where stacks of quaint lobster traps still stand proudly, although they serve mainly as decor for the row of dockside pubs and the yachts that land in Shediac for the day, coming from Quebec, Nova Scotia and New England for -- what else? -- lobster.
No one is sure what caused Shediac's lobster to disappear, but overfishing is the most common answer given. What's more, no one seems to mind. Serge makes more than his grandfather ever did by fixing up local homes for vacationers. His brother does even better repairing speed boats.
More lobster is starting to come from northern New Brunswick, now that Indian bands there have started to harvest aggressively. Most of the Shediac equipment has gone that way, too, but that does not mean the town will take down its welcome sign, or sell the world's biggest lobster. For now, too many tourists are lined up to be photographed, shaking its giant claw.
John Stackhouse's Notes from the Road will appear daily in The Globe and Mail, and on globeandmail.com, until the Labour Day weekend. His conclusions will be published in September.