The alarming announcement that the 2012 catch by the state of Maine rivals the entire volume landed in Atlantic Canada has P.E.I. fishermen calling for an eastern seaboard roundtable to establish stabilization in a threatened lobster industry.
The Maine landings were up 18 million pounds over the record level of 105 million realized in 2011 and is considered one of the major reasons behind such a dismal price in the entire industry.
“We are in a desperate need to have a supply discussion,’’ said Ian MacPherson, executive director of the P.E.I. Fisherman’s Association in Charlottetown. "This is not just a Canadian issue….it’s a north-south problem and we need to find a way to stabilize our industry. The current model does not promote a sustainable fishery.’’
The 2012 Maine volumes at 123.3 million pound rival the 125 million pounds usually landed in the entire region of Atlantic Canada. The excessive catches flooded markets and pushed prices to their lowest in years.
‘’The lobster industry has to find a way to align fishermen incentives with the volumes the market will take’’ said Seafood.com editor John Sackton in Lexington, Mass. ‘’The cycle of landing more and more low priced, and in some cases low quality lobsters, needs to be broken.’’
The enormous catch and dismal prices of under $3 a pound has prompted many in the industry to call for a roundtable on the future of the fishery.
" I would ask the Minister of Fisheries here to put something like this together and make sure all industry players are at the table,’’ says Colin Lavie, a Conservative MLA from eastern P.E.I. following a prediction by Canadian National Revenue and former Fisheries Minister Gail Shea that boat quotas might be needed.
After 18 years of owning his own lobster fleet, the Souris based Lavie said the idea of creating lobster quotas could only hold water if a firm price was established for primary producers.
‘’Someone needed to break the ice on this and she did it,’’ said P.E.I.F.A chair Mike McGeogehan to TC media. ‘It’s not a taboo word anymore.’’
P.E.I. landed record catches as well over the past two years while acquiring poor prices along with Nova Scotia fishermen.
‘’I’m getting the same price for my lobster these days as I did when I started 18 years ago,’’ said Souris/Elmira MLA Lavie. “Discussing quotas and many other things in the industry is needed.”
Shea said a boat quota must be industry driven and Lavie agrees suggesting the entire Atlantic seaboard stakeholders need to find a solution.
“The industry needs to have a conversation about their viability,” said Shea in a year end interview with the Journal-Pioneer newspaper.
She noted the federal government supported the establishment of the Lobster Council of Canada as a mechanism to bring the industry together. She said while it won’t happen overnight, the industry needs to take steps.
Some fisherman worry quotas could lead to consolidation and attempts to swap and trade that quota once established. A 10 per cent across the board reduction means different financial implications for a harvester that catches 15,000 pounds at $3.50 and one who lands 80,000 pounds at that price.
“We have an emerging customer like China and a growing market, but with the increased catches of the past few years it means shipping more product at a lower price,’’ he said. “That does little to increase the return to the harvesters.”