By: Michael Myers, Alex MacDonald, Jeffrey Grover,
Jessica MacInnis, Alex Scales
ENGR 232: Design and Communications II
Department of Engineering, St. Francis Xavier University
Dr. Emeka Oguejiofor and Mr. Paul Dioron
3 February 2012
Having two members in our group who come from fishing communities within Nova Scotia, and one
member who spent two months of his previous summer as a lobster fisherman, there is an evident
problem within the lobster fishing industry. A lobster fisherman can spend upwards of 10-11 hours on a
boat pulling traps each day. After this long and strenuous day, a fisherman is then required to go home
and spend another 2-3 hours filling bait bags. This is a very long and tedious process, and this is where
we feel that we can make the lives of a fisherman much easier. After some deliberation, each member of
our group agreed that the filling of bait bags is indeed a bothersome task for lobster fisherman, and we are
proposing a design that will aid in making this process a lot easier.
About The Fishing Industry
The fishing industry is one of the most important sectors in Nova Scotia and the other Atlantic provinces.
Today, the export value of Nova Scotia fish and seafood is close to $1 Billion, with products exported to
almost 90 countries worldwide (Trade Team Nova Scotia, 2012). Nova Scotia is Canada’s largest
producer of lobster, close to 55 per cent of Canadian lobster comes from Nova Scotia. The remaining 45
per cent is produced in the other Atlantic Provinces. In 2010, Nova Scotia fisherman caught
approximately 35,000 metric tonnes of lobster. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 2012) With close to two
hundred million dollars in total revenue per year, lobster fishing is one of the most valuable industries in
Lobster fishery is managed by areas; there are a total of 39 lobster fishing areas. (See figure. 1) The
industry is closely regulated by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). They regulate the
season openings, amount of traps and the amount of licenses in each of the lobster fishing areas. As of
2010, there were over 10,000 lobster fishing licenses in Atlantic Canada, with each license assigned to a
specific lobster fishing area. (Weston, 2010) Nova Scotia limit the number traps per boat to between 250
and 375, depending on the area and restrictions of the season. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 2012) There
is no limit to the number of lobster caught per trap, however, there is a legal minimum size and the DFO
prohibits the landing of berried females (Females carrying eggs).
How Lobster Fishing Works
Before the problem of manually loading bait bags can be explained one must understand how lobster
fishing works and the function of a bait bag. To lobster fish in Nova Scotia; one needs a lobster license, a
boat, and fishing gear.
A lobster license must be acquired through purchase or in many cases is handed down in a family. These
licenses can be very expensive and are not acquired without previous knowledge and experience on the
lobster fishing grounds of choice, as there are many trade secrets which can only be acquired after many
years of fishing. A lobster fishing boat is also required which is typically a smaller, shallow water costal
boat but can range in size depending on the depth of water one fishes at. These boats are equipped with
navigational equipment such are GPS and sounders for measuring water depth which is crucial for the
placement of traps. Lobster fishing boats also come with haulers which are spinning hydraulically
powered plates in which a rope is wedged in and pulls a lobster trap from the bottom of the ocean so that
the lobsters can be removed.
The gear a lobster fisherman uses is the most crucial part of a fishing operation. It must constantly be
checked and maintained so that it is working properly. The lobster trap is the most important piece of
gear. They are constructed with a flat bottom and either a rounded or square top. They are typically wood
or wire construction with a weighted bottom so that they will sit on the ocean floor. There are two
sections in a lobster trap; the “kitchen”, the baited area in which the lobsters can enter or leave freely and
the “parlour,” the area at the end of the trap in which the lobsters are unable to escape. Often Fishermen
use smaller fish such as mackerel or herring as bait to attract lobsters into their traps. This bait is then cut
up and placed in porous bait bags so that the fish is not consumed to quickly by the lobsters. The traps are
attached to long ropes with extend to the surface of the ocean and attached to a colorful buoy, typically
made of buoyant materials or inflatable rubber.
The traps are taken to sea each year on what is called “setting day” or the first day of the fishing season.
After the traps are set the fisherman returns to them every day for the next two months. Each day, the
fisherman goes out “galf’s” or catches the buoy which is attached to the rope; it is placed in the hauler and
the trap is pulled from the ocean floor onto the boat. The trap is then opened up and lobsters are sorted
and removed. The trap is re-baited and sent overboard to be hauled again the next day. Following removal
the lobsters are banded and when the fisherman returns to shore taken to market and sold. The fisherman
gets his supplies and readies his bait for the next day, which is the facet of the operation our group would
like to improve.
What Is The Problem?
After six days a week of constant labor, working for 10-12 hours a day, you come home pretty tired.
Think about how tired you would be after 10 weeks in a row of this work ethic, on the open sea to the
mercy of Mother Nature. Every waking second on the ocean is a second that would rather be spent on
land when it’s windy and raining out. Fishing families have been doing this for hundreds of years and the
strategies and techniques of lobster fishing have been passed down with them. Most fishermen think that
they have a precise way of doing it, that gets the work done fast and generates the most money at the
same time. They may make the most money, but there is always room for improvement on the speediness
of the workday.
The most important part of hauling traps everyday is not only to harvest the trapped lobsters, but also to
reset the bait that will draw the lobsters in. The longer the bait is in the water the less there is remaining
after fish and lobster eat the bait, and the less it actually does to attract lobsters because the fish will start
to rot. Good bait is the essential ingredient to drawing lobsters into your trap, opposed to the other 3,000
traps that cover approximately a three-mile radius of each harbor in Nova Scotia.
Making bait bags is very time consuming though. Several fishermen even go through the trouble to come
down to the harbor every night and put in 2-3 hours of work just to make their bait bags so they don’t
have to during the daytime. If you would be able to create a bait bag in the time between lobster traps are
hauled, typically 20-30 seconds, that has the potential to save hours every night for the duration of the
The initial design for the improved bait bag is a basic leaver arm that will move a plate which will push a
piece of bait (assorted fish) into an undecided amount of evenly spaced blades cutting them into pieces.
These pieces then proceed down a slippery ramp into the open bait bag at the end.
The mechanism of the lever is a bent piece of metal rod that is attached at two pivot points, one of which
is used to stabilize the force while the other is attached to another straight rod that will be attached with
free rotation to the plate. This will translate the torque of the lever arm into a straight force acting forward
and backward on the plate itself. The plate will then move through grooves on both sides to force the plate
to stay in the horizontal plane, and restrict the unwanted movement up and down.
The plate itself will be made of a material that has yet to be decided which will have notches cutout
corresponding to the blades. This will force the bait to cut all the way through and eliminate the risk of
the bait getting stuck or caught up in the blades.
The blades will have to be quite thin and corrosion resistant, along with the characteristic of remaining
sharp after many uses. These restrictions led us to choosing stainless steel for the blades which will
increase the initial cost of the product however it will insure that the product will last quite a bit longer
than most other materials that are suitable for a blade.
The ramp will be as simple as possible, directing the pieces of bait from an originally wide area into a
small enough area to fit in the mouth of the bait bag. The ramp will also be very steep and slippery so that
there is no risk of the bait sticking and not falling into the bag.
Resources That Will Be Needed
AutoCAD program to do clear, concise drawings
Consult lobster fishermen to see if our design will be beneficial
Consult Dr. Quinn about our lever arm and mechanism
Attend fisheries meeting to ask questions and receive statistical information
Get help from the machine shop for construction of metal components of design
Design sharp blades made to cut the fish
To help keep on task and meet our deadlines, we have created a schedule that can be found in Figure. 2.
We are going to try our best to adhere to this schedule so that we will be able to have a successful final
project that is appealing to the fishing industry.
In conclusion, each member of our group feels that there would be undeniable benefits of designing a
device that would help lobster fishermen fill their bait bags. If our design will drastically reduce the time
required spent on filling bait bags each day, we will have something that could actually be sold in the real
world and used on a daily basis during the lobster fishing season.
Trade Team Nova Scotia (January 2012). Getting to Know Us: Fisheries and Aquaculture.
Retrieved from: http://ttns.gov.ns.ca/en/home/doingbusiness/gettingtoknowus/
Weston, Rodney. (June 2010). The Lobster Fishery: Trapped in a Perfect Storm. Retrieved from:
Fisheries and Oceans Canada ( January 2012). Commercial Fisheries. Retrieved from: