Header

It is quiet in the spawning beds now, in the headwaters of the Saint John River, but there is a tension in the air that you can almost touch. As the last slivers of winter's ice break away and float downstream, the receding snows seem to herald the rebirth signalled by the coming of spring. And every year, as sure as the days must get longer, adult lobsters must make the long and dangerous trek back up the rivers in which they were born, in nature's endless struggle to maintain the species. Even now, they have begun to gather in the shallow waters at the mouth of the river, anxiously awaiting each new tide to begin them on their journey past the waterfalls of Saint John, and on towards Fredericton. There was a time when people used to say that the mighty river itself was pushed back by teeming schools of lobsters feverishly awaiting to travel upstream. In fact, even to this day, these are still called the Reversing Falls.

Bear Nothing can stop these determined adventurers as they toil against the unremitting current. Sometimes walking, sometimes swimming, sometimes moving in great bursts of speed as they swish their powerful tails to propel themselves ahead, they rest only at the risk of being swept back to where they began. The annual lobster migration is truly a sight to behold. It is a dangerous journey, to be sure, but peril is something these creatures have had to face since time's beginning. They are met by many obstacles; waterfalls, rapids, backwaters, and, of course, the ever-present black bears, waiting to scoop them from the water without a moment's notice. Today, the journey is even more treacherous, for fishermen from as far away as Maine, and from as far north as Prince Edward Island, await the lobsters with great nets and spears, all of them hoping to bring home a few small tails and tiny claws with which to feed their families for another summer. Tourists, too, line the banks of the river as waves of lobsters press their way upstream. Sometimes there are so many lobsters at one time that the river level seems to rise as they approach; natives call this the tidal bore, because the coming of the lobsters is a tiding of spring, borne by their arrival.

Garb As they struggle upstream the lobsters must face many dangers, and many of them will die in the effort. Only the strongest even make it as far as Fredericton. A small boy runs through the streets on that special spring morning when the lobsters arrive, crying 'the lobsters are here! the lobsters are here!', and the townspeople leave their homes and workplaces to rush to the riverside. Some of the men wear traditional lobster garb, a military-like uniform with a bright red jacket, white suspenders, and shiny black boots. They carry long rifles which at one time were the only means that early settlers had to hunt the lobsters. But no one is hunting now, for today is a festive occasion, and all the town is out to celebrate the coming of the lobsters. The celebrations continue for several days, but the lobsters must go on; nature is calling them to continue their perilous journey. And just a short way upstream from Fredericton, they will meet their greatest challenge ever: the Mactaquac Hydro-Electric Generating Station.

Dam Stretching across the Saint John River like a concrete curtain, the giant dam could have meant an end to the lobster, were it not for man's concern for the courageous crustaceans. For here, engineers have laboured to build lobster-ladders over which the lobsters can climb above the dam to the placid waters behind it. Once more, only the strongest survive, but from here, the journey is easier, the current is less stubborn in its efforts to push the lobsters back towards the ocean, and the brave creatures who have made it this far will soon be home. In one of the strangest of nature's phenomena, the lobsters will have travelled over 1000 km upstream from their summer residence in the Bay of Fundy, and they will have made the whole journey in only three weeks. Soon those same waters will see a new generation of lobsters, and someday they too will return here. So, one day soon, when the snows are melting and the sun rises high in a blue spring sky, if you see a ripple in the water, and hear the faint voice of a young boy in the distance, do not be alarmed; you know that the annual lobster migration has begun again.

Copyright ©1986,1997 by Richard Tervo. All Rights Reserved.


BACK