Grand Manan Island is the Richest Island in Canada
We’ve spent the past few days about 20 miles off the coast of New Brunswick, on Grand Manan Island, pronounced Grand Ma-NAAN. After kayaking along the shore, viewing the famous Hole in the Wall, a dramatic rock formation on the shoreline, and meeting several locals and visitors, we’ve learned a little bit about this island where 2400 live year ’round.
Kevin Sampson owns the Compass Rose Heritage Inn, and also the Adventure High kayaking. The two businesses are right next door to each-other, on the main road, Rte 776. Off season, Kevin runs kayaking and adventure programs in Antarctica and the Arctic, he said.
After a sparse lunch of barely edible supermarket salads, we were primed for the evening’s dinner at the inn’s cozy restaurant, and we grabbed a table outside on the deck, watching the busy waterfront where ferries and fishing boats were coming and departing.
I asked Kevin about the local economy and his answer surprised me. “This is the richest island in Canada,” he said. “There are some lobster crew members who are making $250,000 a year!” As with so many other things these days, it is because of the Chinese, who have developed an insatiable appetite for the red crustacean, and they buy every single bug that comes out of the local waters. This means that the supply is being drained, and unfortunately, no Canadians are allowed to go lobster fishing again until the first of November.
Lobster on the Menu
But lobster was on the menu tonight–the last of the bugs that were caught when the season ended in June, and Kevin told us, sadly, there are no more of them in the local pounds. All shipped off to Beijing, where a lobster dinner is a status symbol that rich Chinese pay hundreds of Yuan for.
I was surprised when I found out that Grand Manan’s population only goes up by about 500 residents during the summer. With a few grocery stores, and many other businesses, this is a year ’round place and he said maybe 95 percent of the people here work in the fishing industry.
The only way to get here is to take the ferry from Black’s Harbor, it takes 90 minutes in a very modern Wi-Fi equipped large car ferry. There is no scheduled air service, but there is an airfield for private planes.
Along with the booming lobster business, herring is caught in old fashioned looking herring weirs, which are a set of poles in a circle with nets all around that force the fish in and they can’t swim out. Sardines are just small herring, and the fishery is robust, with the price remaining pretty consistent over the years. Not only the familiar canned sardines, but bait for lobsters and feeding the salmon that are raised in offshore pens.
This is a great place for hiking, and walking along mostly deserted beaches. Though you can’t even think of going swimming, the miles of coastline and craggy shores are striking. We spent a long time tonight after we hiked to the edge of the coast through a narrow woodland trail just sitting in silence, meditating as the sun slowly set over the water.
Grand Manan is a tonic for any over digitized soul.