Lobster war heating up

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Blind-sided by a consultant's report, a delegation of Island lobster fisherman stormed out of a meeting in Moncton Wednesday with the future of the P.E.I. lobster industry on the line.

New Brunswick wants the smallest legal size of lobster to steadily increase over the next three years in the Northumberland Strait.

That will wipe out most of the P.E.I. industry, says Minister of Fisheries Ron MacKinley.

His staff was on the phone Wednesday, lining up a meeting next Friday, Feb. 1 with Keith Ashfield, federal fisheries minister who also happens to be an MP for New Brunswick.

"P.E.I. catches 80 percent of the canner lobsters that are caught and New Brunswick catches the other 20, so we have the most to lose," said MacKinley.

Of all the lobster caught on P.E.I., some 57 percent are the smaller canners and Island processors have found a way to market them, he said. Losing that fishery would be devastating, said MacKinley.

The New Brunswick crew at Wednesday's meeting argued that by hiking the minimum size, DFO would help all the fishermen in the region increase their landings because mature females would be left in the water to produce more eggs rather than ending up on a plate in Europe or China, says a report in the Times Transcript newspaper.

"Lobster catches are increasing," said MacKinley. "We don't need any more conservation."

It is not a scientific argument, he said. It's an aggressive business ploy to try and squeeze much of the Island out of the lobster business and thus drive up New Brunswick prices.

"They can fish all they want," said MacKinley. "There is no quota. They can throw their smaller lobsters back. Leave our canners alone."

“There’s no way that we’re prepared to go to 77 (millimeters). It’s not wise, or feasible, or financially profitable for P.E.I. to go there,” Mike McGeoghegan, president of the Prince Edward Island Fishermen’s Association, said in a phone interview with TC Media staff Wednesday as the delegation was en route back to P.E.I.

“We knew the meeting was coming, but we didn’t have a criteria, and we didn’t know they were going to have a consultant there. I’m not pleased with the way it went down,” McGeoghegan said.

“They came at us way too hard. We thought it was going to be a discussion. We were going to sit down, put some real good ideas on the table, look at the quality, look at the markets, but it wasn’t like that.”

He said the Island delegation walked out following the presentation and after a Feb. 6 date was set for a P.E.I. response.

The carapace size increases by one millimetre to 72 this year. That’s as far as P.E.I. fishermen want to go.

"Gail Shea is on side on this too, and that helps," said MacKinley.

Alternatives that have been raised in discussions include dividing the Northumberland Strait with a line to keep P.E.I. fisherman on one side, and New Brunswick on the other but that got shot down by New Brunswick, said MacKinley.

Geographic location: P.E.I., New Brunswick, Iceland Moncton Europe China Prince Edward Island Fishermen

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Recent comments

  • Praire Lobster
    January 24, 2013 - 17:32

    FYI......live Lobster at Sobeys in Canmore Alberta last week was $14.95 lb, Toronto $9.95lb and Costco Toronto is selling Florida lobster tails cheap as if they were "real" Maritime lobsters and many people don't know the difference in the City.....fisherman who land the catch do no get paid enough these days and NB Boats have always been a predatory species in the Gulf, shame on them.

  • Leonard Handrahan
    January 24, 2013 - 16:51

    There is some substance to this request in determining what the size of the lobster should be when brought to market, but we need to come to some sort of reasonable agreement on this. My decision on this matter would be to take a 75 % of what is being caught for caners, and replenish the stock by leaving the other 25 % in the water to further mature. This would lesson the impact on P.E.I. lobster fisherman, and gradually in crease the size of the 25 % lobster left in the water each year.

  • Bill Kays
    Bill Kays
    January 24, 2013 - 16:49

    I congratulate them on walking out of that farce. Resist change at all costs. Do not let processors pull this trick because that is all it is. As soon as we give up those canner markets someone else will grab them up. Then later after this stuff fails, we will have a hard time getting back our niche canner markets. Face it, the big guys want to get rid of the little guys, and guess what, WE ARE THE LITTLE GUYS.

  • to BOY O BOY
    January 24, 2013 - 13:28

    When you know NOTHING about our Island fishery you should stay hush hush.....This has nothing to do with greed...all they want to do is pay there bills and have a little money in there pockets.....Do you think its fair that the fishermen get about 3.00 a pound and the stores sell them for 8.00...I don't think so as its the fishermen that are carring the big loans.....If you think that fishing is so great and its all about greed I know where you can buy a fleet....just cost you about 500,000......and as far as EI all self employed can draw, but I a sure you come spring your so far behind in your bills that your all summer getting caught up...

  • WayneDrops
    January 24, 2013 - 09:53

    DFO should focus on reducing traps in Southwest Nova and cutting the season back to 3 months instead of 6. On top of that the lobster fishery in Maine should have restrictions instead of a year round free for all. Regardless of how many restrictions are in place in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence Fishery, there will always be gluts due to the lax restrictions in Southwest Nova and the lack thereof in Maine

  • The facts
    January 24, 2013 - 08:45

    First of all PEI fishermen have done a lot for conservation.....Our seasons here are only 2 months and the size for canners have gone up over the last number of years...Our processors have no problem getting sales for them....Go to any harbour on PEI during fishing season and you will see most islanders and tourist buying canners.....The problem is NS season is way to long, starts in Nov to May and they fish 375 traps....Maine fish pretty much year round......So stop blaming PEI fishermen as they have done the most conservation for the industry....Take the canners away thats about 80% of there catch,,so how will they pay there bills...CONSERVATION FIRST...when your grandfather fished way back when they paid 25 cents for a lobster license and there was no limit on traps...So if we can get NS and Maine to fish 2 months seasons then the lobster industry should have no ploblem getting a good price for there catch.........

  • Nor'easter
    January 24, 2013 - 08:30

    I meant that there was some fish plants out there that needed to be supported and were needing small improvements. Not the $30 some million debockle which we will be paying for for another 40 years according to Sheradons smart bookwork...BS bookwork that is

  • To BOY O BOY
    January 24, 2013 - 08:26

    TO BOY O BOY: You must be a person sitting at your kitchen table this morning with nothing better to do than to express your jealously and ignorantness about the fisherman and the fishery. Get a life... this story wasn't about EI changes. Go to work now.

  • Capt Higliner
    January 24, 2013 - 08:00

    Hey here's an idea..... Since everyone is crying about the price. STOP FISHING THEM FOR A YEAR! Drive the prices up. This will give the lobster a year to breed and get caught up. Not rocket science , if the supply is cutoff the price drives up.

  • The canner a thing of the past
    January 24, 2013 - 07:45

    The fisherman's association have to adapt to the market place. The canner is pretty much a thing of the past. A larger lobster makes a lot more sense than constant whining about low prices. What is the solution Mr. PEIFA.

    • not dumb
      January 24, 2013 - 09:25

      to bad you don't know what your talking about or are you just plain lying. the buyer don't even make you banned the markets just throw them in with the canners because they know they can get rid of the canners not the markets.

  • to Noreaster
    January 24, 2013 - 07:25

    One thing for sure; Keith Ashfield is in a conflict of interest on this one. However I am mystified by your last comment. Do you meant the 'fish plants' that the government gave millions of dollars to - then closed down and left (with the money)??

  • Boy O Boy
    January 24, 2013 - 06:45

    Boy O Boy , When will it ever end , the greed of PEI , they complain about prices & expect Goverment (the people of Canada) to make their prices higher but are unwilling to do anything themselves to improve the supply demand . I say to H*** with them . Let them go it on their own & survial of the fittest be the judge of fishing or not . Cut the EI to fleet owners as they shouldn't be getting it anyway since they are self employed business owners . They should be treated the same as any other Canadian who has their own business . Time to end this two tier system .

  • jrsplace
    January 24, 2013 - 06:39

    No matter if the carapace is big or small In the publics mind no doubt Their greedy grabbers all

  • Dooms Day Move
    January 24, 2013 - 04:52

    If New Brunswick fishermen think this will drive the price up they should think again. last spring buyers were having a hard time getting sale for the larger-market sized lobsters as it was, if every lobster comming ashore is a market wherer will that put the sales market? And as far as Gail Shea being onside, Harper didn't stick his tyrant care-less attitude into this matter, if that happens just watch how fast Gail Shea goes into the( mums the word) mode! oh! and as for P.E.I. being told how-when and what to fish, we've been told that by outside intrests for years

  • conservation first
    January 23, 2013 - 22:29

    Island fishermen are just greedy and want to fish small lobster because they don't believe in conservation. My grandfather used to fish at New London back when you had small open dorys and about 40 traps per fishermen that you hauled by hand. He said that the big boats today with hundreds of traps per fisherman, and thousands of more fishermen in PEI than used to fish lobster, would be the deathknell of this industry. You know what? He was right. And until they cut back on the number of lobster fishermen by 50% and cut the number of traps for the remaining ones by 50% and increase the carapace size for canners by at least 25%, then Island lobster fishermen will always always always be considered the greedy irresponsible fishermen of the east coast.

    • chris
      January 24, 2013 - 11:54

      conservation first its a good thing u didnt take over your grandfathers gear because you are pretty dumb.by the way 2012 was a record breaking season

  • Northsider
    January 23, 2013 - 22:15

    We are doomed as a fishery when we have the likes of Ronnie Mackinley as Minister of fisheries and Mike Mcg as President fighting our battles. I'm afraid Ronnie hasnt the slightest clue what he's talking about-and Mike-people are tired of you whining-all you do is whine. Mike your Son Charlie is in his second term as an MLA and what has he done for the fishery-NOTHING! He went around promising everything under the sun for fisherman and hasnt done a thing. In Fact last spring while the legislature was sitting he was barely ever in his seat for Belfast Murray River-instead he was out fishing.

  • Nor'easter
    January 23, 2013 - 20:51

    Ashfield doesnt care about what happens with lobster fisherman in hios own province so why will he care about PEI fisherman?What the hell right has New Brunswick "linchmen scientists"have the right to tell Island fisherman what they can fish. These are the processors that would have starved if it wasn't for PEI lobster for years and now are biting the hand who fed them.Now they have the largest amount of processors and think they can rule over the PEI fishery which they have been trying for years. I guess our Island government over the last 15 years should have grown a "pair"and supported our old fish plants and taken care of us islanders.

      January 23, 2013 - 22:24

      Once again, Island fishermen are not well served by their PEIFA. For McGeoghegan and MacKinley to go to a meeting and be this unprepared is just not right. Island fishermen keep putting people in place in their FA that simply are not capable and get beaten every time by NB. The fishermen in NB know there is no one involved with the FA that has a clue what to do.They had better soon wake up or NB or the DFO will be making all decisions for them.They must get some good leadership or all will be lost.

    • Jean Paul Poirier
      January 24, 2013 - 06:00

      All females should be thrown back. Also why are prices so low. In Paris, a lobster sells for $25 a pound. So maybe other markets should be sought. Why insist on selling to the same markets than in the 1950s. Times have changed. And the poor fisheren have to invest so much now that the current situation is untenable. Where is the UMF or its successor in all of this ?