METEGHAN, Nova Scotia (AP) – The killing of 40,000 pounds of lobster in what police are investigating as a deliberate poisoning left fisherman Paulin Robichaud so shocked he could barely breathe.

The lobster pound owner said Tuesday he staggered out of his small business after finding the dead lobsters in a holding tank on July 27.

Outside, the 49-year-old said he saw a liquid had been spilled on the ground and several holes had been drilled in the building. It was a poison that Environment Canada and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have yet to identify.

“Really, I was in shock. Total shock,” he said in an interview.

The losses are huge, roughly the equivalent of a tractor-trailer packed from one end to the other with the shellfish, with a value of about $280,000.

Robichaud said he drove home and told his wife what had occurred.

“I caught her as she was falling down to the floor. She took a shock, too,” he said.

“I didn’t think I had an enemy in the world. But I think I’m starting to think differently about that.”

The peaceful Acadian fishing town in southwestern Nova Scotia hasn’t seen such an event before, said Mounted Police Sgt. Michel LaCroix, the Meteghan detachment commander.

LaCroix said autopsies will be done on some of the dead lobsters to determine when they died and confirm that the poison caused their deaths, which could take weeks.

Asked what possible motives exist, LaCroix responded: “It’s a multimillion-dollar business. There’s a lot of competition. There’s a lot of jealous people. There’s big money involved in that.”

Why someone would kill his lobsters baffles Robichaud, who says his family goes back generations as “simple fishermen” along the southwestern coast of the province. He got into the business six or seven years ago.

Robichaud believed he was too small a player to be the target of rivals, but now he’s considering all possibilities, including whether other buyers could have a grudge against his brother or two other men who purchase lobster for him at various wharfs.

“I don’t know if they have rivalries with others or what. A lot of people told me that after the fact. I don’t know if it’s a turf war or what,” he said.

“I haven’t figured that one yet.”

The holding pound held more than 40,000 gallons of contaminated water. Robichaud said it has remained sealed since the crime was discovered.

Environment Canada refused to comment on what was planned for the wharf or how the toxic water will be handled.

After they are caught, lobsters are kept in cool water, where they go into a state of hibernation while fishermen wait for the ideal time and price to bring them to the market.

The price of lobster has been skyrocketing lately, with Robichaud having just sold 15,000 pounds at about $8 per pound.

The death of his stock has left Robichaud in limbo.

“What will I do now? I’ll fix my traps and mow my lawn and wait for lobster fishing to start again in September,” he said.

Asked if he’ll return to the business, he said he needs to first know who committed the crime and why.

AP-ES-08-07-07 1804EDT

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