UPDATED: Change needed to fix lobster industry woes

Darrell Cole, The Amherst News
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AMHERST, N.S. – Reducing the number of traps early in the season, taking days off each week and better marketing and quality control are just some of the suggestions a three-person panel is making to ensure the region’s billion-dollar lobster industry has a future.

The findings of the Maritime Lobster Panel were released at a news conference in Amherst, N.S. on Thursday, including 33 recommendations in areas of industry relationships, operations and structure.

The panel, including Gilles Theriault of New Brunswick, John Hanlon of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island’s Lewis Creed, said it heard lots of reasons for the industry’s fragile position.

“We saw a distinct set of messages that came out of the work we did. It portrays an industry that’s struggling instead of co-operating, fishing for quantity instead of value, fighting over pennies and losing dollars and asking others to solve their problems,” Hanlon said. “We were told that a significant loss was occurring as a result of the way this industry inter-relates across sectors and with governments, the way the fishery is being operated and the way it is structured. What we see is little change happening”

Since beginning its work in July, the panel met with about 100 organizations representing fishermen, buyers, shippers, processors, brokers and First Nations people throughout the Maritimes and as far away as Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec and Maine.

The panel also received 30 written submissions.

The report addresses five key areas, including why the price dropped suddenly in the spring, and examines the various cost and revenue components of harvesters, buyers and processors in the Maritimes. It also provides strategic advice on marketing initiatives and on a course of action to stabilize and then increase prices paid to harvesters.

If accepted by the industry, the recommendations could be implanted for the 2015 season.

Hanlon said the panel is suggesting a greater emphasis on quality with a temporary trap reductions as season begin, having weekly no fishing days to allow for lobster to be cleared from landing areas and to develop and implement grading standards for lobsters.

“The need to improve the quality of lobster entering the marketplace is essential,” Hanlon said. “Although quality improvements are being seen and much work is being done, there is still a need to stress this area.”

Finally, it identifies options for a formal system where the industry would know the price that will be paid to fishermen prior in advance of landings.

Under relationships, the panel’s recommendations are presented in an attempt to shift from the lack of co-operation across sectors and governments to a new reality, while under operations it wants to replace the current practice of high volume fishing over short periods one where the pace of harvesting is matched with the onshore capacity to deal with that harvest “in a manner that provides the best chance for each lobster to achieve its fullest value potential.”

Essential to that, the panel said, is improving the quality of lobster that’s entering the marketplace. The panel is recommending the establishment of an independent Maritime lobster market intelligence institute and is suggesting that industry and governments come together to develop and implement a comprehensive generic marketing and promotion campaign for Canadian lobster.

Creed said the panel wants to see the development and implementation of a “price-setting mechanism for determining the price before the season starts.”

To finance these initiatives, the panel suggests implementing an industry levy with one cent paid by the fishermen for each pound landed and another cent per pound paid by onshore sectors.

“We believe this strategy is the key to achieving the final objective presented to the panel, which was to provide advice to stabilize and then increase the price paid to fishermen while taking into consideration other industry players,” Creed said.

The levy, which would not increase for five years, would include an evaluation either late in the fourth year or early in the fifth to determine its future.

He said the panel sees no reason why the shore price for canner and market lobsters cannot be at least $4 and $5 per pound respectively with relative corresponding returns to other onshore sectors.

In closing, the panel called on leadership from politicians, government agencies and from the various industry sectors that spoke passionately through the process.

The panel was appointed by the three Maritime Fisheries ministers in May after a downturn in lobster prices led fishermen to stop fishing in protest.









Organizations: Maritime Lobster Panel, First Nations

Geographic location: Maritime, AMHERST, Newfoundland and Labrador Quebec

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Recent comments

  • Pieces of the Puzzle
    November 08, 2013 - 07:35

    I know it's a leap, but we better take a hard look at this case before we swallow the government's position on pension reform. The likelihood of our pension contributions going to stabilize corporate interests (rather than pensioners' pockets) is consistent with controlling the market to serve processors rather than fishers. It appears that 10% of us will do almost anything to make sure the other 90% of us don't know we are in this together!

  • The Urban Oysterman
    November 08, 2013 - 05:31

    What has the West Coast Dungeness Crab industry done. That seems to have a floating price. The Live Alaskan King Crab Industry, also has a tremendous demand and price. Closer to the NE,, The Snow Crab Industry? Vibrant or dead in the water? Does it not carry quota? Look towards other trap species, even the inshore shrimp industry of the gulf and see historically where their successes and failures can give options to the NE Lobster.

  • The Urban Oysterman
    November 08, 2013 - 05:22

    What about quotas. Create demand. One has to learn not to talk about lobsters, One has to talk to lobsters.

  • Get out While you Can
    November 07, 2013 - 23:11

    If anyone in business is losing money year after year,they usually have enough sense to pack it in,unless they can suck money out of the tax payers.Oh well it will only be another 6 months and the same whinning about prices will start again

  • Captain
    November 07, 2013 - 21:33

    Too many lobsters , too many traps and too many fishers.This will generate better prices. I don't want any advice for solving the pricing problem. Oh by the way their must be pictures in this report that the Minister is reviewing.

    November 07, 2013 - 21:06

    What a joke . Let us see the processors books , I lost $2 a pound but it is still the same price at the store . They push for a penny a pound and say we are too mean to pay it but this will just be another tax and in a few years it will be 50 cents or a dollar a pound . Government has a dismal record handling money and I can see this will be a Gravy Train for a select few . I fish lobster I am not involved in processing or selling or the finished product and the profits from this why should I contribute to this when I am getting cheated buy the very same people . This exercise did nothing to restore my faith in fair trade . Once again Government looks after big business ,fudge the little guy .

    • So do it yourself.
      November 07, 2013 - 22:10

      So if you have so much mistrust in government why are you looking to them to fix prices, find markets, and bail your a$$ out. Do it yourself.

  • bob
    November 07, 2013 - 21:00

    did they find out why fishermen are getting low prices.But the price to consumers is still high.

  • Bill Kays
    Bill Kays
    November 07, 2013 - 16:03

    Look at the attitude government shows when stating GDP is up so everything is ok or getting better. My question is "getting better for who?" Just the few at the top, that who. It doesn't matter to government if an individual fisher makes enough to survive "AS LONG AS THE INDUSTRY IS DOING WELL". This is the wrong attitude but it permeates every aspect of how government makes decisions. My advice to you fishers is "do not trust the government to be a caring and compassionate one, as their actions in the past prove they could care less.

  • Here Fishy, Fishy, Fishy
    November 07, 2013 - 14:30

    Translation of report to the Canadian taxpayers: It is clear that the fishermen should continue to file claims for maximum EI at least 2-3 times a year and work only 8-10 weeks to get it and be guaranteed that they will get maximum EI. Everyone else must work 40+weeks with no guarantee of getting anything. If the fishermen decide that they do not want to fish anymore and would like to retire early, to the sunny south maybe, than the Government of Canada will use enormous amounts of taxpayers money to pay more than 3-4 times the value of licence, boat and gear to buy out the poor, exhausted, overworked, fisherman. The Canadian Government will then sell the purchased boat, gear, etc. back to another up and coming fishermen's son/daughter at 1/4 of the purchase price and start the cycle all over again. Meanwhile the Canadian taxpayer will continue to work maximum hours, some at minimum wage to pay the taxes required to allow this buy-out and the maximum EI payouts to fishermen.. The Canadian taxpayer can look to the food banks, if necessary, to feed their families and put on extra clothing to keep warm in winter The Canadian government will assure the taxpayers that they do not and will not buy out any other occupations licenses and equipment, only those of fishermen. Anyone holding teacher's licenses, nursing licenses, tradesmen's licenses, or other similar license's that they find can not earn them enough money or any plumbers, electricians, carpenters, welders, etc. who would like to sell their equipment should not look for a similar buy-out from the Government. The Canadian government will also guarantee that no fisherman will ever have to go out west for any amount of time to get the additional money needed for their new truck and snowmobiles. The Canadian government will guarantee the fishermen's income as the Canadian government will guarantee the price per pound and will arrange for the marketing and buying of the lobsters each day while the fishermen enjoy their beverages at their favourite watering holes. I haven't taken the time to translate all of the report but just covered the major points. If you want further information, call your local Government office

    • Seek Help
      November 07, 2013 - 22:24

      You should seek help . This jealousy of fishers will give you cancer , ask any health professional ...than again....as you were ,steady on .

    • SlyFox
      November 07, 2013 - 22:31

      It is sad how one can form an opinion on what they think is true but really they know very little about.

    • Northshore
      November 08, 2013 - 06:39

      Be that as it may, lobster fishing is a billion dollar industry. Yes Billion, with a "B". So when there are problems with that "B"illion dollar industry, it will be examined to see what can be used to fix that "B"illion dollar industry. If fishermen aren't making money, then your trades people aren't making money, etc. I read a stat somewhere that stated if fishermen lose 5 million a year then the economy loses 10 million. Is that what we really want for our have not province, or are you just letting your jealousy cloud your judgement. Getting the lobster industry in track will benefit all islanders.

    • Very Well Put
      November 08, 2013 - 08:31

      I couldn't put it better . So true & sad for the rest of us taxpayers .

    • Fisherman's Daughter
      November 08, 2013 - 08:47

      You obviously have no idea what it is like to be a fisherman. If you think a fisherman fishes one 8-10 week season and then sits around on top ei you are grossly mistaken. Not only does he/she fish their lobster season, they also have to fish everything single thing they can qualify for just to try and make ends meet. They have to pay for help, they have to pay for fuel and bait. Do you have a $20,000-$50,00 income tax payment you are expected to pay each year? Because you seem to think fisherman are paying no tax. You continue to differentiate between fisherman and Canadian tax payers so you are certainly unaware that not only do they pay taxes but they pay lots of it. Among other things like the cost of your boat, the maintenance of it. It's people like you that are keeping this gross stigma that fisherman are just lazy people who want to do nothing in life but the bare minimum and quite frankly it's disgusting.

    • Here Fishy,Fishy,Fishy
      November 08, 2013 - 11:00

      To Seek Help, Slyfox, Northshore and Fisherman's Daughter.......In response to your assumptions and advice(cough, cough) I am self employed as fishermen are but do I receive the same government benefits as the lobster fishermen do? No way! I am ,like a lot of self employed people, left to our own resources to deal with the ups and downs of our industry. Maybe if all of you took off your rose coloured glasses and compared the fishing industry to other self employed industries you may start to show some appreciation for what other self employed people go through also . As for jealousy, call it what you may in order to avoid the real word which is " Fairness".. As for all the expenses of lobster fishermen, I have heard it all before and so what. Do you think other self employed businesses have no employee wages to pay, no vehicle expense, no expenses for supplies, no expenses for maintenance and equipment, no taxes and other fees, etc., etc. etc. My business is seasonal with a 2 month break during which I am not eligible for EI. My employees are eligible just as fishermen's helpers are and I have no problem with that. However the fishermen should not be able to draw EI , just as all other self employed people are not eligible. What makes fishing so special that it is the only self employed industry that gets to draw EI. And Daughter I would love to have to pay $50,000 in income taxes every year. I would be making some pretty good money to have to pay $50,000 taxes per year and any fisherman paying that much in taxes shouldn't be looking for any help anywhere especially since they are paying such high expenses, you would think that there would be little or no taxable income left. As for knowing the fishing industry, I am a whole lot more knowledgeable about the lobster industry and lobster fishermen than you think I am. Northshore makes a comment that I do agree with, i.e."Getting the lobster industry in track will benefit all islanders " That is true and the benefits that a lot of self employed businesses make to P.E.I's economy is substantial. That doesn't mean that fishing should be treated as a "special" case. A lot of the present day problems with low prices for lobsters has been created by the fishermen themselves. How would you expect to maintain a price received 5+ years ago while almost doubling the volume of lobsters on the market. That is called "Greed" and that is something that does not warrant any "special" treatment.