© STEVE SHARRATT/THE GUARDIAN
P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association president Craig Avery, left, shares a laugh with board member Wayne Campbell during the opening of a two day annual meeting in Charlottetown. Fishermen say they want a dedicated minister and department to tackle the issues and challenges facing the industry.
A dedicated minister and department of fisheries should be created to tackle the issues and challenges facing the second most important primary industry in the province, say Island fishermen.
The call for separating the provincial Department of Agriculture and Fisheries was delivered during the annual meeting of the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association Friday in the P.E.I Convention Centre in Charlottetown.
“We definitely need our own minister because things move too fast in this industry and there are too many issues to deal with for a department that has two portfolios,” said president Craig Avery. “We have no problem with the current minister or deputy who are great people, but we need our own.”
Avery made the comments during his report to hundreds of fishermen who attended the business session and trade show. Last year, Island fishermen landed almost 30 million pounds of lobster. It is second most profitable industry, next to agriculture in the province.
“Without a minister, we are missing out on things,’’ said Avery, noting the fishery is federally regulated. “With our own minister, we would have more influence in Ottawa regarding the various fisheries, quotas and seasonal adjustments.”
Board director Wayne Campbell, said it’s difficult for the province to intervene or become involved in proposed fishery regulations without a dedicated minister. And, he said, possible changes can be made to the Island and Gulf fishery with little input from those affected the most.
“If we had our own minister it would provide more time and attention to focus on issues with the federal government,’’ he said.
Avery, who was re-elected for his last year as chair, told fishermen key issues ahead include marine protected areas, expanding lobster markets in China and France, and working towards more foreign workers this spring to fill lobster plants.
Thousands of pounds of lobster were dumped out last year in New Brunswick because of the lack of workers in processing plants. There were rumours such events happened in P.E.I., but Avery and Campbell denied those claims.
“I heard it was tough getting things done, but there was no dumping,’’ said Avery. “That’s why we’re hoping some positive changes will be coming down this spring and we’ll be able to process in orderly fashion. We have nine weeks when all the lobster is landed in the spring fishery and it can’t sit around and wait.”