Lobster by Trap

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia — Lobster Fishing Area 27


Atlantic Lobster


May 16 - Jul 15

Lobster Trap

Fish harvesters use wooden and wire traps submerged on the seafloor to catch lobster. Traps are attached to lines and marked by floats on the surface. The traps attract lobster with bait and capture them live. Fishermen check their traps regularly to haul in their catch. This traditional fishing method has little impact on the seafloor and traps minimal bycatch or unwanted fish.

Harvesting Method

Lobster Trap

Lobster traps consist of a rectangular wooden or wire frame covered with nylon netting. The traps capture lobster live by attracting them through an entrance to the centre of the trap where the bait is located. As more lobsters enter the trap, the others move into a side “parlour.” Once inside the holding parlour, the larger lobsters are unable to escape. All traps have an escape hatch to allow small lobster, crabs and fish to get out.

Lobster Trap

Conservation Measures

The lobster fishery is managed by effort control, which involves limits to the number of traps and fishing days. A number of measures address conservation in the fishery. These include:

  • minimum lobster carapace size of 81 mm (3.19 inches)
  • a limited number of licensed fishing vessels (543) in the lobster fishing area
  • seasonal openings and closures to limit catch
  • a limit of 275 traps for each licensed fishing vessel
  • escape mechanisms that enable undersized lobsters to exit traps
  • rules governing the size, design and type of trap
  • biodegradable components that will dismantle traps if lost at sea and therefore prevent “ghost” fishing (to be implemented by 2012)
  • a rule requiring the release and marking of all female lobsters bearing eggs

In this lobster fishing area, fish harvesters actively participate in scientific data collection and research such as:

  • a comprehensive data collection system on catches
  • scientific sampling of lobsters at sea
  • maintaining catch logbooks and scientific field notebooks

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia


Ocean Wise - Not Recommended

SeaChoice - Some Concerns


May 16 - Jul 15


The Department of Fisheries and Oceans manages this fishery under a fishery management plan for Lobster Fishing Areas 27.


For the most recent lobster stock status, check the Department of Fisheries and Ocean’s science advisory reports.

Quality and Handling

Local fish harvesters pride themselves on harvesting cold-water lobsters with a hard shell. Proper handling is paramount for lobster quality and health. Once landed aboard, lobsters are graded and undersized catch and egg-bearing females returned to the ocean. Rubber bands are fastened around lobster claws for safety and quality they are then placed in crates. At the dock, the lobsters are sold and usually taken to a local buying facility where they are held several days before being shipped live to market. Some lobsters are also processed, either by cooking or freezing raw.

In some cases, fishermen hold their lobsters in storage facilities called “cars.” These floating structures are moored along the seashore and have compartments that hold lobster crates. Tides flush the lobsters twice a day with fresh seawater. Fishermen typically hold lobster in hopes that the market prices will improve later in their fishing season.

Local buyers and exporters also keep lobsters in a variety of storage facilities, including tidal pounds and tank houses. The best facilities try to mimic the natural hibernating conditions of lobster. They are individually separated into plastic tubes or trays, and placed in fresh, cold seawater to replicate their solitary existence on the seafloor. Proper facilities closely monitor oxygen levels, temperature and salinity of the seawater. Under good conditions, lobsters can maintain their top quality for several months.

Harvesting Area

Lobster Fishing Area 27 consists of the eastern shore of Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, a region of rocky shores, glacial valleys, barren headlands and the Appalacian mountains which form its “highlands.” The lobsters’ habitat consists of rocky and muddy bottom and the fishery takes place in the late spring and summer. Most fishing happens in shallow areas usually within 9 miles (15 km) of shore.

Food Info Atlantic Lobster


  • Colour: when cooked, a bright red shell and snow white meat with red tinges
  • Texture: a firm, dense, somewhat fibrous texture with claw meat more tender than tails
  • Flavour: sweet, mild, but distinctive taste, which can vary depending on habitat
  • Perfect serve: Lobster lends itself to a huge variety of cooking preparations but the simple steamed lobster served with drawn butter is still the ultimate seafood feast.