Unlocking the Cost of a Lobster Fishing License in Nova Scotia.jpg

Unlocking the Cost of a Lobster Fishing License in Nova Scotia

For those looking to enter the lucrative world of lobster fishing in Nova Scotia, the cost of securing a lobster fishing license is a crucial consideration. Prices for these highly sought-after licenses have reached historic highs in recent years, with some fetching up to $1.8 million CAD. In this article, we’ll dive deep into the factors driving these costs, the different types of licenses available, and what aspiring lobster fishers need to know before taking the plunge.

The Allure of Lobster Fishing in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia is renowned for its thriving lobster fishing industry, with the province accounting for the majority of Canada’s $1.2 billion in live lobster exports in 2021. The southwestern region of the province, particularly the municipality of Barrington, is often referred to as the “Lobster Capital of Canada” due to its bountiful lobster fishing grounds.

The appeal of lobster fishing in Nova Scotia is clear – strong demand, both domestically and internationally, has driven prices to record levels. In January 2023, shore prices for live lobster reached $20 per pound, nearly double the prices seen in December. This surge in value has made lobster fishing licenses a highly coveted commodity.

Types of Lobster Fishing Licenses

In Nova Scotia, there are two main categories of lobster fishing licenses:

  1. Commercial Licenses: These licenses are intended for those looking to fish lobster on a commercial scale, with the catch being sold to buyers and processors. Commercial licenses are tightly regulated and limited in number to ensure the sustainability of the lobster population.
  2. Recreational Licenses: Recreational licenses allow individuals to fish for lobster for personal consumption or enjoyment. These licenses come with stricter catch limits and are more readily available than commercial licenses.

The Cost of a Commercial Lobster Fishing License

Securing a commercial lobster fishing license in Nova Scotia requires a significant financial investment. Prices can range from $500,000 to $1.8 million, depending on factors such as the fishing area, vessel size, and the number of traps allowed.

In addition to the license itself, aspiring commercial lobster fishers must also consider the cost of purchasing a suitable vessel and the necessary gear, such as traps, ropes, and buoys. A well-equipped lobster fishing boat can cost upwards of $200,000, with gear and equipment adding tens of thousands more to the initial investment.

It’s important to note that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has strict requirements for those seeking a commercial lobster fishing license. Applicants must have at least two years of experience as a lobster fisher, working a minimum of five weeks per year. This experience requirement ensures that license holders have the necessary skills and knowledge to operate safely and efficiently within the industry.

Recreational Lobster Fishing License Fees

For those interested in recreational lobster fishing, the cost of obtaining a license is significantly lower than that of a commercial license. In Nova Scotia, recreational lobster fishing falls under the general fishing license, which allows individuals to fish for various species, including lobster, in provincial waters.

The fees for a general fishing license in Nova Scotia are as follows:

  • Seasonal license (residents and non-residents age 16-17): No cost
  • Seasonal license (residents age 18-64): $27.60
  • Seasonal license (residents age 65+): $6.80
  • Seasonal license (non-residents age 18+): $34.80
  • Seasonal license (residents and non-residents age 18+ with a disability): No cost
  • 1-day license (residents and non-residents age 16-17): No cost
  • 1-day license (residents and non-residents age 18+): $13.10
  • Replacement license (residents and non-residents): $5.75

While a general fishing license allows for recreational lobster fishing, there are strict regulations regarding catch limits, size restrictions, and fishing seasons. Recreational fishers must familiarize themselves with these rules to ensure they are fishing responsibly and legally.

Additional Costs and Considerations

Beyond the cost of the license itself, both commercial and recreational lobster fishers should be aware of additional expenses and considerations:

  1. Gear and Equipment: Lobster fishing requires specialized gear, including traps, ropes, buoys, and bait. Commercial fishers will need to invest in a larger quantity of gear, while recreational fishers can opt for a more modest setup.
  2. Vessel Maintenance: Owning and operating a lobster fishing vessel comes with ongoing maintenance costs, such as fuel, repairs, and storage fees. Commercial fishers should factor these expenses into their business plan to ensure profitability.
  3. Safety Equipment: All lobster fishing vessels must be equipped with necessary safety gear, such as life jackets, flares, and fire extinguishers. These items add to the overall cost of participating in the industry but are essential for the well-being of all crew members.
  4. Insurance: Commercial lobster fishing operations should carry appropriate insurance coverage to protect their vessels, gear, and crew. Insurance premiums can vary based on the size and value of the operation.
  5. Processing and Transportation: Once the lobsters are caught, commercial fishers must consider the costs associated with processing and transporting their catch to buyers and processors. This may include investing in cold storage facilities or partnering with local processing plants.

Can I fish for lobster recreationally without a license in Nova Scotia?

No, all individuals who wish to fish for lobster in Nova Scotia’s waters must obtain a valid general fishing license, even if they are fishing recreationally.

Are there any age restrictions for obtaining a lobster fishing license in Nova Scotia?

There are no age restrictions for obtaining a general fishing license, which allows for recreational lobster fishing. However, individuals under the age of 16 are not required to purchase a license.

Can I sell the lobsters I catch with a recreational fishing license?

No, lobsters caught under a recreational fishing license are for personal consumption only and cannot be sold.

How long is a commercial lobster fishing license valid for?

Commercial lobster fishing licenses are typically valid for one year and must be renewed annually.

Are there any catch limits for recreational lobster fishing in Nova Scotia?

Yes, recreational lobster fishers are subject to daily catch limits and size restrictions. These limits can vary depending on the fishing area and season, so it’s essential to consult the current regulations before setting out to fish.


Obtaining a lobster fishing license in Nova Scotia is a significant undertaking, whether for commercial or recreational purposes. The high costs associated with commercial licenses reflect the immense value and importance of the lobster fishery to the province’s economy and culture. For recreational enthusiasts, a general fishing license offers an affordable way to enjoy the thrill of the catch while respecting the sustainability of the lobster population.

By understanding the costs and requirements associated with lobster fishing licenses in Nova Scotia, aspiring fishers can make informed decisions about their involvement in this iconic industry. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a curious beginner, the world of lobster fishing offers a unique and rewarding experience deeply rooted in Nova Scotia’s maritime heritage.

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