© TC Media photo by Eric McCarthy
Brian Matthews guides a load of lobster pans out of a boat at West Point in this Guardian file photo.
New marketing efforts in Maine could benefit everyone in the industry by leading to increased demand, says Fisheries Minister Ron MacKinley.
MacKinley said he thinks what is happening in Maine could lead to higher prices for Island lobster fishermen.
"The more lobsters that we can move, the more it should help the price," he said.
Lobster fishermen in the Atlantic region have marketing help through the Lobster Council of Canada, which was established to promote the product as part of efforts to get higher prices.
But Maine's lobster industry recently saw a change to its marketing efforts after the state passed legislation to create the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative.
That organization replaces the Maine Lobster Promotion Council and will see its marketing budget gradually grow from more than $370,000 last year to more than $2 million two years from now.
The money will come from increases in licensing fee surcharges for fishermen, wholesalers and processors.
MacKinley said he doesn't think Maine's efforts will have much of an impact on sales of P.E.I. lobster.
"It could be a little bit of a bump," he said.
But when it comes to funding lobster marketing in the Atlantic region, MacKinley said the federal government needs to spend more first before the provinces and processors come on board.
"You want everybody to have a part in it. I think it works best when everybody is at the table," he said.
MacKinley said he would like to see everyone at the table together, but as fisheries minister he's not going to tell the industry what to do.
"I can suggest," he said.
Ian MacPherson, the P.E.I. Fishermen Association's managing director, said the Island lobster industry is keeping a close eye on what happens in Maine because it is a close competitor and a sizeable budget will represent a big part of promotion in the marketplace.
"They've got this organized and moving ahead," he said.
MacPherson said Maine deserves credit for what it was able to accomplish.
"I don't think anybody's discounting what they're doing out there and kudos to Maine for getting something of that magnitude organized and up and running in a relatively short period of time," he said.
As a sector of the lobster industry, there has been a lot more discussion among fishermen about marketing recently than there has been in the past, MacPherson said.
"You can spend money and there's no guarantee it will have the outcome that you're looking for."
MacPherson said there has been talk about a one-cent levy on Atlantic Canadian lobster through the Lobster Council of Canada, which would raise about $700,000 per year, but the hard part is getting everyone to agree on it.
"Something like that would have to be voted on by the fishing community and supported by it," he said.