Roundtable needed to discuss lobster quota: PEIFA

Steve Sharratt
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Maine lobster flooded the market in 2012, driving down prices, says the PEIFA.

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.”

Organizations: Association in Charlottetown, Journal-Pioneer, Lobster Council of Canada

Geographic location: P.E.I. Fisherman, Maine, Atlantic Canada Lexington, Mass. Nova Scotia China

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Recent comments

  • sick
    January 08, 2013 - 06:37

    Dear Mr. "Real fisherman" sounds to me like its sour grapes for you... not only are you off base . It seems like your jealous of something. Your acuseing all fishers of being criminal??? or just everyone but you????the word "real" I would question....After fishing thirty five yrs I could tell you whom is "real".. It doesnt start with the PEIFA thats for sure...

  • concernedislander
    January 08, 2013 - 00:25

    Its ah shame too see such and industry being brought too its knees,all too often in many ways the untrust amongs fellow fisherman has time after time taken it closer too where its gotten too,back in the 60s or 70s when co-ops were around and if there were more trust amongs fisherman there could have been one megga huge fish plant here on PEI run by fisherman owned and operated taking all other stake holders out off the mix in turn more money being generated too the fisherman and there helpers and too the thousands off plant workers islanders at that and everyone making ah good living.we had a industry that we put into the hands off big coperate giants who into played with it and have pretty much brang it too its knees like so many other resourses we have had here on PEI the untrust and greed have pretty much taken its toll and in the end who better too blame but the big babysitter the government nothing but human greed and jealousy will end it as we had known it.

  • The real fisherman
    January 07, 2013 - 22:58

    Why don't they also discuss the fact that lobster fishing has become primarily an EI stamp fishery . Why don't they come clean about the manipulation of every single aspect of their catch sales to exploit the EI system by getting the most EI claims per boat and then also manipulate their expences to come in just under the clawback . And then after all that they just sell the rest of the catch for cash like the all cash scallop fishery because the CRA does not have effective dock side monitoring .

  • SAP
    January 07, 2013 - 21:18

    I can never keep up, do they want the government to be involved in the industry or, or not?

  • tim tonkin
    January 07, 2013 - 20:15

    The days of big prices for lobster are over boys. The world changes ,lobster is no big deal to the new generation of consumers and China ain't going to make a difference, they would sooner spend their money on phones and tiger bones .