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Future of the Fishery

Jamie Gauthier graduated from the Future Fisher Program and now fishes out of Rustico.

In the old days fishing lobster meant early mornings, an iron stomach, rough hands and hauling traps.

It still means having fortitude and strength, but today’s fishers have to have lots of money, business savvy, networking skills, a hands-on science education and a backup plan.

That's where The Future Fisher Program comes in.

The government program - which offers new fishers courses in bookkeeping, lobster biology, lobster value chain and information on what it taking place in international markets –prepares fishers for the real life challenges of earning a living on the sea. Program participants are given credit for taking various Transport Canada marine courses such as radio operations, marine first aid, small vessel operator proficiency. The program also provides interest relief assistance up to $3000 per year to new fishers who have fishing loans.

“What you learn on the back of the boat is one thing, but fishers need to know why they’re getting $4 a pound at the wharf and people are paying $30 for a plate in calgary, “ said program instructor Dave MacEwen.

MacEwen has been teaching the workshops since they started in 2009.

Since the program began, 129 young fishers have participated in workshops, courses and meetings offering a variety of education and mentoring opportunities. The Future Fisher Program takes three years to complete with participants expected to obtain three credits through coursework and workshop attendance each year.

He invites processors to come and speak to future fishers about what lobster markets are looking for – for example, the Swedes like dill-flavored lobster products, other contries like lobster in brine.

And they discuss how to earn a living the other ten months of the year in other fisheries or marine industries.

“They learn more than throwing lobsters on the side of the wharf and getting a paycheque,” he said.“They’re putting a lot on the line for two months of the year.”

Program graduate Jamie Gauthier said learning how to interact with various levels of government and network with other lobster fishers was the most beneficial thing for him.

Gauthier fishes out of Rustico Harbour for May and June then runs a charter company withhis father Joey until September.

The Future Fisher Program helped open his eyes to the daily reality -- and the future of -- one of the Island’s key industries.

“It’s not just going fishing anymore, it’s a business that has to be run.”

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