For those in the communities of South West Nova Scotia, Dumping Day is one of the most nerve-wracking and exciting days of the year.
Thousands of loved ones take to the sea before the crack of dawn aboard boats piled high with lobster traps. The vessels steam at top speed towards favoured fishing grounds where the traps (pots) are tossed off the stern either singly or in trawls - strings of 10-15.
It's a dangerous job. Fishermen must step nimbly while coiled lines whip about the deck yanking the pots into the water as the captain shoves the throttle down for each offload. The lobster fishing industry is the engine that drives this picturesque region. It boasts of the largest catches of Canada's 41 lobster fishing areas, accounting for 40 percent of the country's catch and 23 percent of North American landings.
Fishermen have to contend with weather, fluctuating prices for their lobster and crushing costs of their own.
As a gesture of support, the Cape Forchu Lightstation holds an annual Dumping Day send-off, typically on the last Monday of November. The event has grown in size to where it now attracts hundreds.
At 5 a.m. visitors begin flocking to the beacon for muffins and oatmeal, hearty servings of legendary bread pudding dribbled with warm caramel sauce.
A minister delivers a blessing over VHF/CJLS radio at 5:45 a.m. and then the crowd lines the crest of a cliff to wave flashlights as the Yarmouth lobster fishing fleet steams out of the harbour. The captains often toot their horns or flash their spotlights in return.
All along the coastline, hundreds of boats are departing dozens of other harbours. The first day of the fishery is supported by the Canadian Coast Guard and search and rescue teams aboard C-130 Hercules and Cormorant helicopters.
The fishermen are permitted to pull their pots after midnight and will return for a few hours sleep after dumping before heading out to check them again. The first week of the season, which runs from November to May, is the most lucrative. Thousands of pounds of lobster can be landed on each trip.
Many of these are shipped to North America and Europe where they end up being used in delectable dishes like Lobster Thermidor, bisque, chowder or simply steamed with drawn butter.