© Guardian photo by Heather Taweel
John Hanlon, left, and Lewis Creed were among the members of the Maritime Lobster Panel who spoke at a standing committee of MLAs looking into the issue of low lobster prices in Prince Edward Island.
The Opposition Tories want Fisheries Minister Ron MacKinley to commit to the timelines identified in the Maritime lobster panel report in an effort to help improve long-term lobster prices for P.E.I.
The Standing Committee on Fisheries, Transportation and Rural Development met Tuesday and heard from the three Maritime lobster panel members.
They discussed their recommendations, highlighting the timelines identified in their report for implementation of some of their key recommendations.
Opposition Leader Steven Myers moved a motion requesting the committee urge MacKinley to adopt those timelines.
“I think there’s some fears amongst the fishermen already that nothing’s happening,” Myers said.
“If we recall back to last spring, the protests and the tie-ups. We don’t want that again, and I don’t think anyone in the industry wants that again, so if we have some kind of timeline to ensure that something happens in a timely fashion, that’s all I’m really looking for.”
The panel’s report, released in November, called for a one-cent lobster levy across the region, contributed by both lobsters and processors, and that a price-setting mechanism be adopted by all three provinces.
It further suggested using money from the levy for generic promotion of Canadian lobster and to establish a marketing institution to provide solid data on how best to spend the levy dollars using the best marketing data available.
The report provided timelines to guide the three provinces in implementing its recommendations.
It suggested by August of 2014, fishermen should vote on whether they agree to adopt the levy. Also by that time, governments should hire an expert to lead the design and implementation of a mechanism to help regulate prices.
Collection of the levy, if approved by over 50 per cent of fishermen in each of the three provinces, should begin by Jan. 1, 2015.
That date should also see an operational price-setting mechanism in place and a marketing campaign underway.
But although all members of the committee agreed the panel’s recommendations were sound, not everyone was in favour of committing to those timelines right away.
Tyne Valley-Linkletter MLA Paula Biggar said she thought it would be best to wait until after an upcoming lobster value recovery summit, scheduled to
take place next month in Halifax.
She successfully argued to delay Myers’ motion.
“Recognizing that it is important to get timelines, but that we should wait until we have this lobster summit.”
The summit will focus on Maritime lobster panel’s recommendations and is scheduled to take place March 26 and 27.