Debate ensues over lobster marketing vs. investigating prices

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Brian Matthews guides a load of lobster pans out of a boat at West Point in this Guardian file photo.

The debate of whether to focus on better marketing or investigate low prices in the lobster industry boiled over during the Prince Edward Island Fishermen’s Association’s annual convention on Saturday.

The weekend saw Geoff Irvine, executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada, and PEIFA president Mike McGeoghegan go head-to-head during a portion of the convention.

Irvine made a presentation that largely focused on marketing lobster, as well as a proposed penny per pound levy to Island fishermen to go towards building a marketing fund.

About 75 per cent of north shore fishermen have already voted on holding a levy this season with the province’s other two fishing areas also now planning to hold a vote on the issue.

However, many members of the PEIFA seemed to feel the urgency of addressing prices for the upcoming season were missed by the lobster council.

McGeoghegan, who spoke after the presentation, said a fair trade component has been missing from the council’s work.

He also said he was disappointed the council didn’t “follow the money” to see what has caused an apparent disconnect in prices.

“It’s been four years now and there is nothing we can put our hands on,” said McGeoghegan. “He (Irvine) is saying that marketing pays, and I believe that. But there should be a fair trade component to it.”

Last year’s $3 landing prices sparked a solidarity strike from fishermen around the Maritimes during the first two weeks of the season.

While that strike caved in by mid-May, fishermen haven’t forgotten about the low prices.

The issue played a big part in the convention, with members calling for a vote on whether to tie up boats again this year.

Fisherman Charlie McGeoghegan questioned Irvine why the council didn’t speak out during the tie-up and pointed to specific reports of high lobster prices around the world.

And even close to home, said McGeoghegan.

“We went to a restaurant in Moncton and lobster was 27 dollars for one pound while the fall fishermen on P.E.I. were getting $2.75,” he said. “There’s something wrong.”

However, the issue of price was disputed by Irvine.

“You have to be careful when you say this, the market prices have gone down,” he said.

Irvine will seek “unification” at the Lobster Summit in Halifax in late March and said the marketing levy must also be legislated and collected by the provincial governments.

The levy follows a similar effort by Maine fishermen.

With Irvine stating that one dollar in marketing could result in generating a up to a possible nine dollars, Mike McGeoghegan said P.E.I. fishermen want to know what the actual return would be and whether processors and buyers would also chip in to the levy.

“If we’re going to put money on the table, the fishermen of Prince Edward Island want to see action, not words,” he said. “We can’t do what we’re doing anymore until we get the price of lobster up, something has to change.”

Organizations: Lobster Council of Canada, Lobster Summit

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Moncton, Halifax Maine

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  • Daryl
    March 04, 2014 - 08:54

    The sooner you people realize that once you control the amount of lobster that hits the market, the better prices will follow…..PUT A QUOTA ON LOBSTER….this free for all is killing the fishermen, DICTATE TO THE BIG FOOD CHAINS HOW MUCH THEY CAN GET…Just another example how the fishing breed works, scared the other fella is going to make a dollar more…and the big companies know this exactly, they can last longer than the fisherman with $70,000 payments and expenses . DICTATE TO THE MARKET NOT VISEVERSA..

  • UPWESTER
    March 03, 2014 - 11:50

    Fishermen are at it again.Charlie McGeoghegan is complainin that lobster somewhere in a restaurant in Moncton was $27.00. So what. They are not buying lobster from fishermen at $3.00 a lb.How much is a lobster plate at lobster suppers across PEI, where you sit outside or in a community hall and get potato salad and a dry roll? Bev Oda had a glass of orange juice in London for $18.because that is the rate in hotels in London. The PEI company that makes vodka from potatoes sells for around $50., one of the most expensive vodkas on the market and potatoes are about .06 cents a lb. Last year we had Mike McG. saying they could expect up to $ 6.00 a pound and now we have Irvine stating that spending one dollar could generate up to $9.00, whatever he means by that. The PEIFA is still dysfunctional and fishermen need to take control and get rid of the ones now in charge who add absolutely nothing to the equation.

  • The Urban Oysterman
    March 03, 2014 - 11:30

    The fisherman/woman picks them out of the trap, one at a time. The processor, plant, packer moves Lobster with a forklift. The end user, the one that truly pays for that individual per pound Lobster, uses one fork! The price surges with overheads, logistics, marketing, service, etc., etc. etc. >Lobster, cooked in Paris last week in the low $50.00 a pound range, 21/02/14. >Restaurant selling in Upper Canada for 1.5lb cooked Lobster, with sides, starts at $23.00 a pound, 03/03/14. >Lobster live, in Hogtown, The Farmer's St. Lawrence Market, were at $15.99 a lb., 02/03/14. >Market Lobster live, brokered out of Eastern Canada, were costing in the mid to high $9.00, UPS Delivered to central Canada, 03/03/14.

  • bigglesworth
    March 03, 2014 - 08:36

    The market is setting the price no different from beef. pigs potatoes everyone takes a hit from one wholesaler to the next, Lobster is down the line on foods people need they are not a necessity......

  • Islander
    March 03, 2014 - 08:14

    The one thing we should all see about Irvine and his bunch was as soon as the 1 cent levy per pound was recommended that was all the bragged about on their facebook page. Four posts about it the day after it was recommended...what does that say! So I do agree with the one cent a pound levy but do not allow Geoff Irvine or Patrick Swim to get their hands on it. All it will be is a bunch of $150,000 jobs with little money left for marketing

  • Why
    March 03, 2014 - 07:16

    Why all the fuss , just look around at the number of fishers each one of us know that are south this winter & have the large 4X4's in their yards . Don't seem to be suffering to much from $3 pound lobster . Only ones I see having trouble is the ones that bought fleet's when they didn't have any money of their own & had to borrow the full amount which is not a viable way of getting into any business . Heck the taxpayer is even giving them low interest loans from the taxpayer's money . The view from here is they are doing quite well from a 8 week a year job @ $3 . The good side is even Islander's can afford a feed now & then .

    • High-Roller
      March 03, 2014 - 10:37

      I think you've got it backwards. The tax payer is actually making money off the loans at Finance PEI. The provincial government borrows that money at 1% and loans it out at 4% to 5.5% depending on your financial standing. Well, Wes is making money, anyway, whether the taxpayer sees any benefit is debatable.

  • CRA
    March 03, 2014 - 06:19

    Will the levy come off the huge amount of cash lobster sales or just the lobster sold to get EI from the packer . Maybe the levy should be on the all cash scallop fishery as well . And why doesn't McGeoghegan just buy the magic restaurant in Moncton and buy all the PEI lobster for $20 per lb and make a fortune .

  • Little Red
    March 03, 2014 - 04:56

    This showed how bad our industry is in need of educated people to step up and not someone who doesn't understand simple economics of supply & demand. Mike's got to go and industry will see an increase in price based on that alone.

  • O,Neils 5 Bucks Worth
    March 03, 2014 - 01:45

    The only hope the fisherman have in a little higher price is with CDN dollar down,but unfortuately the economy is still suffering. As far as Supermarkets charging 11.99 for markets,I never see anyone buying them,even at 5 bucks right off the truck is about all the locals are willing to pay for,as you are only gettting 1/3 meat,which works out to 15 bucks a pound. As far as going on strike, I am sure you will still have to pay your hired help or they will be gone. In reality the majority can not afford to stay tied up ,and as seen with last years strike,it did not take long for fisherman to pack it in and call it a loss cause.