Lobster levy claws into market

Steve Sharratt
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Lobster Council of Canada executive director says marketing campaign will open lucrative international markets

Geoff Irvine says a marketing campaign would work wonders for lobster sales. He is executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada.

The creation of a $3-million marketing campaign for the king of seafood will get the claws of the Canadian lobster industry into lucrative international markets and generate payback, says the executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada.

“Other marketing levies have generated as much as a 2-1, to a 9-1 (dollar) payback in sales and revenue,’’ said Geoff Irvine about the proposed penny a pound lobster levy from his office in Halifax.

Irvine said he was pleased to see a recent test vote on P.E.I.

show 75 per cent of northside fishermen support a penny a pound marketing levy, which if matched by processors and buyers, would raise $500,000 on the Island alone.

“In Canada, we land about 150 million pounds of lobster . . . so if we had a marketing levy that collected a penny a pound from two sources (fishermen/processors), we would have a $3-million fund for marketing and promotion,” said Irvine.

The idea of a marketing levy for the tasty Atlantic crustacean has been bobbing in the waves for the past few years and the industry would love to see the lobster as popular as the Bluenose or Anne of Green Gables.

But only now, after two Maritime panels cited a lack of potent marketing, is the levy being discussed.

Many observers say the lobster fishery could become a hot tamale by taking a page from the P.E.I. potato industry.

The spud sultans have marketing down to a science with a smiling Olympic gold medal winner Heather Moyse doing the endorsing.

The levy will seek “unification” at the Lobster Summit in Halifax in late March and Irvine will address the current situation this weekend at the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association annual convention in Charlottetown.

However, the implementation of a marketing levy won’t come overnight.

Irvine said it must be legislated and collected by the provincial governments.

Lobster fishermen in Maine are building a $3-million fund after state legislation there was approved within 18 months.

The federal government has already refused to add a marketing levy to licence fees.

Irvine said the decision rests with industry stakeholders but a marketing fund aimed at live and processed product would bolster sales around the world, help the shore price and leverage further funding from Agri-Food Canada to market agricultural and seafood products.

“It will pay off . . . it already does for those products now being promoted,’’ he said.

Irvine said there is apparent processor support for the levy as well, as each region holds discussion and evaluation on the process.

“It’s taken longer for seafood to get going on this because we are less well organized and not integrated,’’ he told The Guardian.

“Fishing has always been separate from processing.”

Irvine said the most powerful examples of international marketing come from Norway and Alaska which have years of experience and proven success under their belts.

Organizations: Lobster Council of Canada, Lobster Summit, Agri-Food Canada The Guardian

Geographic location: Canada, Iceland, Maritime Halifax P.E.I. Fishermen Charlottetown.However Maine Norway Alaska

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