Friday, December 16, 2011

What is your food worth? Eating Lobsters Mindfully

Although my journey with yoga has been a tumultuous one, what has resonated with me the most has been the (most likely watered down) concept of living mindfully.

Not only does this apply to the steps I take to decrease my impact on our beloved Planet, but it has also spread it's relevant tendrils to touch all aspects of living.

Including eating. This isn't a blog post about veganism or vegetarianism, but about what my food isn't worth.

My food has never been worth slave labour. Often products such as coffee, sugar and chocolate are named when discussing human right violations, terrible working conditions, slave and child labour and polluting cultivation practices. Similar discussions surround farming, with purchasing directly from your farmer assuring that your food has been purchased for a fair price.

This isn't news to most here in Nova Scotia. Despite this province's tendency towards traditionalism and conservative views, the slow food and local movement is making some pretty significant headway. The farmer's markets are booming and 'Buy Local' movements are getting a lot of press, it's great.

(This video is of a local fisherman making the best of a rough situation- hilarious to watch, especially as I've always heard of the crazy things they did while out on the ocean. As you can see, if the rope from the traps pulled him over he's not wearing his floatersuit... most don't. I'm also fairly certain this wouldn't be considered a "rough" day on the water)

Interestingly enough, with the start of District 34's lobstering season (end of November to end of May), which provides 60% of the global lobster industry, the 'fair price' logic hasn't connected. As a fisherman's daughter, I grew up eating lobster. Yes, I know I was lucky, but let me tell you, we were never rich. There is this strange misconception in the Atlantic provinces that lobster fishermen from District 34 are well-off. Perhaps there are a few, but they are far between and definitely not the norm.

Due to the proliferation of lobsters in this area of ocean, it is not easy nor cheap to become a fisherman. Firstly, there's purchasing a boat. Ranging anywhere from 200-500,000$ depending on where you'd like to fish (inside or steaming far outside). Then there's the license, which also costs another couple hundred thousand. You need to hire at least one other person (if not more) to help, minimum 100$ a day. Fuel costs a fortune and don't forget the traps (or 'pots' as their called home). Over 100$ each, with about 200 per boat, often they need replacing during the year.

Beyond this, these fisher-people fish during the harshest season of the year- winter. With winds, snow and sleet, leaving the warf at 3 or 4am to work all day and return after supper, (or stay out for days at a time), it isn't an easy life. Too many have lost their lives in that ocean, with riptides and currents assuring that bodies are never found. Unlike other districts, winter waters mean hypothermia in minutes followed by death. Families and communities never forget this risk.
(A local boat, the Hunter Madison, sinking earlier this week. Thankfully all crewmen were safely rescued. Even though it was a very calm morning, the boat didn't take long to sink....)

This year the season started with a price of 3$ or less a lb. In District 34, most fishermen belong to a co-op at their warf to whom they sell their lobsters. The co-op then sells to buyers, who sell to businesses and ship around the world (including the States).

For most fishermen, there aren't enough lobsters to justify a price of 3$/lb, it costs more to catch the lobsters than they're worth. Unfortunately, most fishermen are too indebted to change careers. With a boat, license, mortgage and house loans their only option is to keep fishing.

I don't know about you, but any lobster I eat, special occasion or no, restaurant or no, will never be worth unfair wages paid to fishermen who risk their lives every day to provide us with a delicious delicacy.

Instead of blindly purchasing your lobster this year, here are a few tips that you can do to help support the fishermen of district 34 (and around the world):

  • Whenever possible, buy directly from the fisherman and pay a decent price (at least 5$ if not more).
  • If that's not an option, but you live in Halifax, Pete's Frootique purchases their lobsters for a fair price directly from a fishermen in Cape Sable Island. 
  • Not in Halifax? Before purchasing ask where the lobsters come from. Voice your concern with regards to the pricing and purchasing practices of buyers. Ask to know what price the original buyer (not the grocery store) paid the fishermen for the lobsters. 
  • Group together with friends who also want lobsters and contact fishermen or co-ops in Nova Scotia to see whether a larger order could justify a trip to the city. People often know people coming up to the city this time of year. 
  • If you can afford it, be willing to pay a bit more for fairly priced lobsters. They're a luxury item and as a result worth a few extra dollars to assure you're not contributing to the destruction of an entire community of fishermen and their families.

Living mindfully is so much more than just the obvious. This year my lobster will be fairly priced and worth every penny.

article copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. GREAT post and great info for those of us who aren't familiar with the fishing life! I am SO excited because my CSA farmer is opening a flour mill next year AND a meat CSA! It's more expensive, of course, but it's real, good food, and we are supporting the love and labor that goes into the raising of all this food. Same should go for our fishermen!

  2. Good reminder ...i only have lobster every few years as good oz lobster tail runs about $75 at nice restaurants ...amazing there are any left w rotten places like red lobster, etc, out there :(

  3. I completely agree! I know that the CSF offers lobster in the winter months. One small step forward. Now if only I liked lobster...


    christmas and new year's lobster delivered right to the brewery farmers market!


I love hearing from you! So I don't miss a comment, I like "pre-approving" them :)
I ask only that we stay respectful.
Also, please note that this is a personal blog and not a space for advertising your company. I reserve the right to delete "advertising" comments.

**NB: The ANONYMOUS option is the BEST way to comment if you don't have a blogger or established google/gmail account.