Fisherman Ken Wyatt poses in Long Cove near Port Medway, N.S. on Wednesday, January 30, 2019 where thieves cut the ropes to his and others' live lobster being stowed in crates tied to a mooring under water. The thieves have made away with over $15K in lobster caught by other fishermen in Long Cove alone. Photograph by Darren Calabrese.

Brazen thieves are pinching lobster from East Coast fishermen

The price of Canadian lobster is soaring, thanks to the U.S.-China trade war. So, alas, are dockside heists.

As lobster fisherman Ken Wyatt rang in the new year with 40 friends in his sprawling shed, four kilometres away at the end of a winding, unlit dirt road, thieves in the tiny Nova Scotian fishing community of Port Medway positioned themselves for a heist. Unbeknownst to Wyatt, as he and his crew clinked beer bottles—and many others around the world feasted on lobster from these waters—thieves were pushing a small boat down a seaweed-covered slipway. The booty that night: 800 lb. of premium lobsters being stored out in the black, icy waters of the Atlantic. “They knew we were partying,” says Wyatt, 53. “They had balls to go down there. They scouted it out.”

The Atlantic lobster fishery is the most lucrative in Canada, producing $1.4 billion in commercial landings in 2017, and brazen nighttime thefts like the one in Port Medway are on the rise. For the past few years, small fishing communities along the southern coast of Nova Scotia, from Lunenburg to Yarmouth, have been hit repeatedly. Over five weeks in December and January, thieves struck four times—and that’s just what was reported to police. The area is home to the two highest-producing lobster zones in the country; it’s common to see stacks of candy-coloured cages on front lawns and, for decoration, the weathered wooden traps of yesteryear. The heists have stunned residents of tight-knit fishing hamlets, where people gather for community suppers and strangers wave to each other on the road. But because most of the thefts go unsolved, many fishermen say, they don’t bother telling the RCMP.

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Still, as the price tag of the delicacy rises—currently around $9.75 per pound at the wharf; $24 at seafood counters in central Canada—so does its black-market value.

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