BY BEVERLEY WARE, HALIFAX CHRONICLE-HERALD MAGAZINE
Salt water glistens on their yellow slickers in the cold morning sunlight as the two young men reach over the starboard side of the boat with a long-handled gaff, snag the rope attached to a blue metal cage and haul it aboard in one tidy motion. They work quickly, grabbing the bodies of half-a-dozen lobsters from the cage; dark antennae dart madly about while crusher claws snap their collective disapproval at the two men who deftly toss them into two plastic black containers.
The water is choppy, but with the thermometer just above the freezing mark, the men welcome the unusually warm day on the job. For the many days that it isn’t so pleasant, they seek the warmth of two bus heaters in the cabin during the rare moments they have the time.
This is where our lobsters’ journey from the pot to the dinner plate begins — a 6,000-kilometre voyage from the deck of the Blue Thunder as it trolls 80 kilometres off the coast of Shelburne County to the most popular item on the menu at Aquaknox, a five-diamond seafood restaurant in the Venetian, a casino resort on the strip in Las Vegas.
On the deck of Blue Thunder, Seth Smith and Ronnie Nickerson are focused as their hands, protected by thick blue rubber gloves, quickly snap rubber bands around the claws of a five-pound and of a two-pound lobster and place them in a thick, grey plastic crate. Along with the bands, they attach an orange tag with a bar code. It will still be there when Steve Aguglia, executive chef at Aquaknox, places it on a plate for which a diner will pay US$89. The person who eats this lobster can take the tag back to his hotel room, type in the bar code on a website and find out exactly when, where and by whom his lobster was caught and chart its expedition to Las Vegas.
That is possible because Blue Thunder’s captain, Dougie Adams, signed on to ThisFish, a program that gives consumers information about the quality of their sustainably harvested seafood and where it comes from. It does that by having fishermen like Adams put bar-coded tags on the lobsters when they are caught and uploading information on him and his fishing trip when he gets back to the wharf with his catch.
“It’s a good thing for the industry,” says Adams, because he wants only the best-quality lobsters attached to his name, and because people all over the world will learn about his community of Woods Harbour. Nova Scotia’s lobster industry is worth about $450 million — that is 45 per cent of the Canadian value.