Shea returns to fisheries during challenging time for industry

Teresa Wright
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Egmont MP Gail Shea is sworn in as Minister of Fisheries and Oceans on Monday, July 15.

Egmont MP Gail Shea has returned to her former post as fisheries minister, but her return comes at a challenging time for the industry in Atlantic Canada.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper moved Shea from National Revenue into Fisheries and Oceans during a major cabinet shuffle Monday.

She previously served as fisheries minister from 2008 to 2011 and also briefly was acting minister last year after former Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield had a heart attack.

Shea says she is happy to return to the fisheries portfolio.

“First of all, there’s no bad seat at the cabinet table. So I’m very happy to be there,” Shea said.

“Fisheries are very important to all our coasts and there are issues that need to be worked on and I look forward to working with the stakeholders. I made a lot of friends when I was in fisheries (previously).”

One of those stakeholders is the P.E.I. Fisherman’s Association. PEIFA President Mike McGeogheghan says he was surprised Shea was put back in charge of fisheries, but is happy with the appointment.

“She knows the fishery and we’ve worked with her in the past so I think it’s a good move,” McGeogheghan said.

“When you can meet with a minister in your own province… that makes it a whole lot easier. When Ashfield was minister, it was very difficult to meet with him, so just to be able to have more consultation, I think, is a whole lot better for us as an industry.”

Shea returns to fisheries at a time of upheaval in the lobster industry. During the recent spring lobster season, P.E.I. fishermen initiated a strike that lasted six days over the low prices offered for their catches this year - $2.75 to $3.25 per pound. The strike swept through the Maritimes and nearly brought the industry to a standstill.

Since then a regional panel has been struck to look at the factors affecting lobster prices in the Maritimes and the provincial government hired former auditor general Colin Younker to also examine the issue.

McGeogheghan said lobster fishers in Prince Edward Island are fed up with the current practice that allows prices for lobster to be set several weeks after the season begins.

P.E.I. fisherman will not go out and fish lobster without first knowing the prices, he said.

“We don’t know how the price is set, who does it? We don’t know those things, those are things we have to find out and the minister needs to find out too,” McGeogheghan said.

“The fishery actually belongs to the Canadian people, we just fish it for them. And neither us nor the Canadian people are getting the money for the resource that (buyers and processors) are giving us.”

Shea acknowledged the low prices for lobster is an issue of major concern in Atlantic Canada, but said she would await the findings of the panel looking into the matter before making any major decisions.

She said part of the issue is one of supply and demand. Due to positive steps taken to conserve lobster stocks in Atlantic waters, there have been increases in catches, which some have described as a glut in the market when lobster is in season.

“When there’s too many lobsters on the market, the price decreases,” Shea said.

“I want what every fisherman wants, that is, to be a viable business so they can make a decent living from a sustainable fishery. I’ve said from day one the answers, the solutions have to come from the industry so I would hope that there will be a fulsome discussion in the fall and going into the winter that will come from the report that will be generated.”

Before Monday’s shuffle, Shea served as Minister of National Revenue and was Minister in charge of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA).

Veterans Affairs Canada, whose department headquarters is located in Charlottetown, also has a new minister in charge. Ontario MP Julian Fantino was named Veterans Affairs Minister. Fantino replaces Quebec MP Steven Blaney, who has been moved to Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. 


Shea fast facts

- She began her career in provincial politics in 2000, appointed Minister of Community & Cultural Affairs

- From 2002 to 2007, she served as Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

- Elected to the House of Commons in 2008

- Was the first woman in Canada’s history to serve as Minister for ACOA.

- Prior to entering politics, she managed a small family business for 15 years.


Organizations: Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Veterans Affairs Canada, House of Commons

Geographic location: Atlantic Canada, P.E.I. Fisherman, Prince Edward Island Charlottetown Ontario

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Recent comments

  • Boston Mike
    July 17, 2013 - 01:45

    Minister Shea Lobster fishermen should recieve immediate no interest loans for home extensions or cottage renovations to help keep low paid tradesmen working on P.E.I. the same way that fishermen keep truck and recreation vehicle dealers in business . If it was not for us fishermen spending lobster and EI money all you trade people would be broke .

  • southside fisher
    July 16, 2013 - 17:23

    brave women your so brave ..i,ll sell you my fleet brave are you..start with your real name....i,ll sell it all to you make it sound so good...come on buy in..

  • Bill Kays
    Bill Kays
    July 16, 2013 - 17:18

    The story is about her getting REWARDED for putting the shaft to all citizens, especially seasonal workers. Shea can put my name down on her list as being opposed to her every decision because let's face it. SHE NEVER MADE ANY DECISIONS ON HER OWN, BUT ONE, and that was the DECISION TO FOLLOW ALL OF HARPER'S EDICTS OR PROCLAMATIONS. Aside from that what good is a politician who forgets to vote their conscience and instead votes based on following party lines. That is not being a free democratic politician, you are just a puppet following someone else's direction. Remember, she has proven to Harper to be a yes MAN, so of course he wants to keep her, she has already been through the public fires.

    • Henry Sow
      July 19, 2013 - 16:27

      Why don't you throw your hat in the ring and run for public office Bill? You seem to have an opinion and the answers for all the issues. Or why don't you do us all a big favor and stay off the blogs for awhile. Your worthless comments and opinions are getting tiresome!

    July 16, 2013 - 13:39

    These people are so out of touch with the real world but all manage to draw a huge salary . This year we were made to put on a larger escape...large enough to let a market-sized lobster escape although in the district I fish we are allowed to take a 72mm lobster .New Brunswick wants us fishing a 77mm lobster so in effect we are releasing legal size fish now . My question is did Government know this or was this just another one size fits all scenario and to heck with the people on the water ,either way this is madness and buffoonery.

    July 16, 2013 - 12:04

    Minister Shea We want lifetime gauranteed EI claims for lobster fishermen grandfathered right now . Their is no reason that we should be made work after lobster season. We are entitled to EI and we should recieve all that we need for as long as we decide that we need it .

    • Dan
      July 16, 2013 - 15:21

      Your comments are why fisherman deserve nothing

  • unowho
    July 16, 2013 - 08:17

    Well let's hope she works better in this dept. than she did in Nat. Revenue. I think we all remember Shea walking out at vote time on the P.E.I.eieiei. Lets hope she knows what she is doing this time and not ruin this one for the fishermen and women.

    • Townie
      July 16, 2013 - 14:33

      Would you have rather she toed the party line and voted in favour of the reforms. This was her only option or she probably would have lost her seat.

  • Brave Woman
    July 16, 2013 - 07:42

    I will have to say that Gail is a brave woman to take this on again . There isn't any way that she can win . It's impossible to make these fishers happy , they already have the best job in the maritimes with the highest pay & still never stop asking for more . Where else can you make a good years salary with only 8 weeks work . As far as them saying it's not true , the homes they live in & the trucks they drive + vacation trip's south sure tells another story . Just how many go broke % ???????????