Fishermen consider fair trade lobster brand

Steve Sharratt
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Lobster traps sit on a Prince Edward Island wharf in this file photo

Island fishermen may take a page from Third World economics by creating a “fair trade” component in their industry and an exclusive P.E.I. brand of lobster.

“We may have to start our own fishermen’s brand with our own label and a fair trade component built in to bring more money to the fishermen,’’ said Mike McGeoghegan, president of the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association.

It was just one of the many topics discussed by fishermen at their recent weekend convention in Charlottetown, which also included a call for a mail-out vote on whether to refuse to fish this spring without a guaranteed price.

The association has been working on the development of a distinct P.E.I. branding for lobster and working with the Lobster Council of Canada towards promotion on a Canadian lobster as well. The effort is to stay on par with U.S. competitor Maine, which approved a marketing levy and is using a pot of money to promote its own brand as well.

“Direct communication with the provinces and the States takes us out of the dark ages,” said the Pinette-based fisherman. “It pushes us towards a vision that will reinvent P.E.I.’s number one fishery towards prosperity.”

Fair trade is well known with the coffee industry, in which customers pay a higher price when buying certified coffee with the knowledge more money is going to the producer.

“We would have a certified P.E.I. lobster that would sold for a premium price,’’ said McGeoghegan. “Everyone knows the price is way too low… even the public who have shown us support.”

Premier Robert Ghiz said the P.E.I. lobster “story” has to be told around the world to help expand markets and he congratulated initial approval by fishermen to consider a marketing levy to bolster promotion.

“When you do well, the province does well,’’ he told fishermen gathered at the Delta Prince Edward. “The (two recent lobster industry) reports say there is room for big economic growth but we can’t sit back and wait for the phone to ring.”

Ghiz said every time fishermen get a five cent per pound price increase it means another $7 million to their industry and $14 million to the province.

“I wish I had a magic wand and could make the price go up this year,’’ he said.

Fishermen are anxious for a price increase this spring after low prices of $3 a pound last year sparked a boat tie during the first week of the season. The annual 27 million pound catch is now equally divided between both markets and canners.

“I see a bright future,” said McGeoghegan. “But we need to take the myth off the scales that P.E.I. is not a shippable lobster and we need the science to prove we have top grade product.”

Organizations: Lobster Council of Canada, Delta Prince Edward

Geographic location: Charlottetown, U.S., Maine

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Recent comments

  • High-Roller
    March 05, 2014 - 17:44

    Well, it's official, instead of just embarrassing himself by quoting imaginary lobster prices, Mike has finally managed to shame every fisherman on PEI. I'm all for a fair price, but this is just foolishness. Anyone interested in a lobster licence?

  • Whiny McFishy
    March 05, 2014 - 13:49

    Using something that was designed to protect workers in 3rd World countries is a new low, even for fishermen. Oh, and stop telling us to go buy gear, etc. That's getting old. So's the "we risk our lives everyday" crap. This isn't Deadliest Catch. Most of you won't leave port if the winds are over 30km/hour. I heard a fisherman at a coffee shop in Montague the other day raving about how bad he's got it, but he was in Cuba in February and is GOING BACK before the end of March. Yup, Keep on whining, boys.

  • Ei
    March 05, 2014 - 13:36

    Maybe it would help the fishermen if they send their ei cheques to Florida .they would save on their heating bills

  • Dave
    March 05, 2014 - 13:09

    My wife and I have owned a business for several years. Many people "talk the talk" about Fair Trade merchandise, but most don't talk with their wallet. Keep in mind too, fisherman want$5/lb not $3. That is a 40% increase in price. The final cost to the consumer will not be $2 more, that is not how business works, as everyone else along the chain also has increased costs and risks as a result. While the food industry may see slightly differnt numbers, expect the final cost to be more like 40% higher.....................will anyone pay it?

  • spud
    March 05, 2014 - 12:25

    Here we go again lets feed the world with our lobster same as the beef and pork farmers in pei tried and guess ware they stand. we are just a drop in the ocean to the rest of the world. greed and go big feed the world just don't cut it on pei

  • Neil
    March 05, 2014 - 10:46

    Perhaps unicef will start sending food and clothing to these third world fishermen.

  • SlyFox
    March 05, 2014 - 09:19

    Wow quite a few here have negative comments about our fisherpersons.There are licenses for sale now if one wants one to get into the trade.They are around 500,000 for the north side.Hope you have the cash on hand because not too many banks will loan you that kind of money on a risky business. Now that's the easy part,now you have to go out and make a profit to pay for it,plus expenses and labor.Also hope your not afraid of hard work , rough seas,bad weather and so on. If it was so lucrative everyone would be doing it.

    • Accountant
      March 05, 2014 - 11:10

      It's not a lucrative business at these over inflated prices. I believe Finance PEI has to stop financing these ridiculous prices for a lobster license. If you went to buy any other business you would pay 3x it's gross. So someone on the north side with 30000 lbs at $3 should get $270000 for his license and the government shouldn't be allowed to finance more than $240000 of it. These older fisherman have to realize their license is not worth $500000 and our bank managers should reflect this in their practices. A south side would be worth 17000 lbs at $3 or $150000.

    • Ye ,Ye
      March 05, 2014 - 18:36

      @SlyFox - yes there are licenses for sale at inflated prices because you managed to get the goverment sucked into buy them back . Cost $100 - return $200,000.00 south side & $500,000.00 + north side & thats just the paper . Next you mention the bank - hell you don't need the banks , the people of PEI loan you the money at lower than normal interest & it's my understanding they can'r even take your license if you default , just your worn out gear . Next - hard work ha,ha what 6 hr day's , in before noon to make tee off time . Rough seas - bad weather is also a laugh as I think most have a poplar tree in yard , if leaves rattle , stay in & that's even with the large size boats you use today . It was a hard job when they had little boats & hauled by hand but that's quite a few years ago so enough BS . People are tired of listing to you whine hart times when you get back from your travel vacation down south . Just curious , do you still get EI when South ?????

    • High-Roller
      March 06, 2014 - 07:52

      @Ye, Ye - Finance PEI can indeed take your fishing licences as collateral, after a decision by a judge from NS several years ago. Not only that, but they can appoint a person of their choosing to fish your licences if you're in default. And the government of PEI is making a killing on lobster loans. Borrowing at 1% and lending it out at 5.5% for a secured loan is highway robbery. Other types of secured financing such as mortgages and lines of credit are at 3.5% and the banks are making billion dollar profits, so if you think that 5.5% is a deal, I suggest you find a new bank.

  • Billy
    March 05, 2014 - 09:13

    How many plans are these guys considering. It seems every day it's a different thought from these guys.

  • Sure
    March 05, 2014 - 08:05

    Sure , I'm sure they will tie up , hell eight weeks is just too much time to work for the return they receive . Why not four weeks and poggy for 11 months . That sounds more like it . The Canadian taxpayers are good for it & these fishers deserve it .

  • Better Idea
    March 05, 2014 - 07:54

    Maybe a better idea would to have pamplets of your local fisherman telling everyone of their hardships. This is John Bait John was to work 8-10 weeks per year ,and has to depend on the government to give him EI for the remaining time. John lives with his family in this nice 2500 sq ft house,and has to drive a 2014 ,4x4 truck,and in the winter take the ski-doo. In really bad winters John and his family are forced to go to Cuba where it is warmer. Johns family also struggles with the wife only having one car, as well as each of the children. John hopes this year for a new engine as his present 600 hp engine takes him 35 minutes to get to his fish gear,by upgrading to 800 hp he can get there in 30 min. Please buy Johns Lobster so he and his family can live,some what like the people in a third world country. PS-Make sure you take a pic of John and the family in front of the house and vehicles for a better sales pitch.

    • jennifer
      March 05, 2014 - 09:16

      You too, could have all that as well.. its called making payments.. it might look nice from an outside and uneducated perspective but ANYONE can apply for a loan and make payments on houses, trucks, whatever.... just cause they have them doesnt mean its paid for. They also spend MONTHS prepparing for the season building traps for no payment. They also have to SAVE for their retirement cause while they are out risking their lives they get nothing when they retire, unlike you, warm at your desk job. Get over it and stop be jealous for nothing

    • Slippery guy
      March 05, 2014 - 11:13

      Jennifer, the point is, if times are tough, you don't take out a loan for a brand new 4X4, or a brand new snowmobile. Because you still have payments on your toys, doesn't make you hard done by

    • Payments?
      March 05, 2014 - 14:50

      You are correct Jennifer about having these payments.If fisherman lived within their means ,not trying to get one up one your fellow fisherman they would not be in this trouble. My uncle fished had a modest house ,would by a new stripped down ford f 150- 2 wheel drive,maybe every 15 years or until it would not pass inspection.He fished with a 40 ft wood boat with a 300 ford,and lived pretty well.Since when do you need a 250 k boat used a few months of the year? I know one lad that paid 800 k for Rustico lic,and I must have a different calculator than his because there was no way you could make it work,only one who came ahead there was the smart lad who sold out.Fisherman claim to be buisness men however the way they operate,it is no wonder alot are going bankrupt.And they wonder why the public have no sympathy for them.

  • Third World PEI ?
    March 05, 2014 - 07:43

    What a crook of %^$£. This Fair Trade gimmick is mostly for people to know the locals in these third world country's are not working for slave wages. Do you think a consumer is going buy say a $4 dollar lobster from Maine or pay $ 5 for a PEI lobster.I don,t care where the lobster is from be it Maine,NS,NB or PEI,I will take the lower price,as will everyone else.

  • Sou'Wester
    March 05, 2014 - 07:33

    Ghiz said every time fishermen get a five cent per pound price increase it means another $7 million to their industry and $14 million to the province.Ghiz is using Sheridans math. 27 million lbs. @ 5 cents a lb. is $1,350,000. Where does the $7 million and $14 million come from?The PEIFA can make enough stupid statements about pricing on their own, they don't need the premier "weighing in".

    • High-Roller
      March 05, 2014 - 17:29

      It has got to be a typo. 28 million x 25 cents is $7 million. That would make more sense as lobster prices have traditionally been set in multiples of 25. $3.00, $3.25, $3.50 etc.

  • Go For It
    March 05, 2014 - 07:01

    Now THAT is a good idea. I'm so glad that these guys are starting to think outside of the box a little bit. Fair trade works well and earns the respect of buyers. Go for it! Using this system on a product that is already seen an a "luxury" won't harm sales in the least. Nothing a little marketing won't solve. I always buy Fair Trade when I see it even if it does cost a little more. I feel better knowing that the guy who did the hard labor is getting paid for his work, not the greedy middle man.

  • WOW again.
    March 05, 2014 - 06:30

    I can't believe that these guys are willing to compare themselves to third world coffee bean farmers what a discusting joke its all become . Third world farmers do not recieve multiple EI claims for 10 months a year . The lobster fishermen of PEI do not know real poverty at all so don't try to co-opt the poverty of others .