The federal government has delayed the spring lobster season in several Maritime communities amid COVID-19 concerns.

The commercial season in fishery zones 23, 24 and 26 have been delayed until May 15, according to a statement from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). Those zones cover coastal areas near northern New Brunswick, the north shore of Prince Edward Island and waters between Nova Scotia and P.E.I.

A letter previously sent to the federal government, signed by Lobster Processors Association of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and more than 20 other industry stakeholders, have called for this delay of two weeks. The commercial season in fishery zones 23, 24 and 26 have been delayed until May 15.

“With these delays, we are maintaining a shared opening date for lobster fisheries across the Gulf region, helping ensure continued co-operation across the industry,” says the department’s statement, attributed to Minister Bernadette Jordan.

“The additional time will enable processing plants to prepare their facilities and workforce for the upcoming season, and allow everyone across the industry to put in place the necessary health and safety measures in response to COVID-19.”

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In an interview with Global News on April 15, Martin Mallet, the Maritime Fishermen’s Union executive director, said that abiding by health protocols while continuing to fish during COVID-19 would be challenging.

“Truth be told, it’s going to be extremely difficult,” Mallet said. “The boats are not designed to enable social distancing.”

The minister says consultation will continue with politicians and industry partners to ensure their safety and support.

“Together we are ensuring that the decisions we make today support the industry in the short-term, and will allow for a strong recovery in the future,” the statement concludes.

DFO says no decisions have been made yet about a possible extension to the season’s end date.

“Requests for season extensions will be considered at a later date, and as always, they will be based on the best available science and with the health and conservation of the stock in mind.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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