© The Guardian
Leigh Knox, left, Mike McGeoghgan and Stephen Lapierre, right, of the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association presenting their concerns over low lobster prices to a committee of MLAs during a meeting Tuesday. The PEIFA says it will likely go ahead with a lobster levy to help raise money for lobster marketing.
The P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association says it will likely go ahead with a one-cent lobster levy for Prince Edward Island, even if the other Maritime provinces pass on the idea.
On Tuesday, representatives from the association told a committee of MLAs looking into lobster prices that fishermen are frustrated with getting rock bottom prices for their catches while consumers are paying $40 or more for lobster in restaurants.
Two recent consultant’s reports on the industry both recommended a penny-a-pound levy to raise money for a targeted marketing campaign, but suggested it should be a Maritime-wide initiative led by the Lobster Council of Canada.
PEIFA President Mike McGeoghgan said Tuesday P.E.I.’s fishery cannot wait for the other provinces to get on board.
“We’ll end up doing it on our own. We can’t wait for (the Lobster Council of Canada) to do this,” McGeoghgan said.
“Marketing is always a plus no matter how you do it. So I think it will be good. And hopefully the other provinces will come on side so we’re all doing the same thing at the same time, but if they don’t we’re going to go ahead without them.”
The fishery representatives and MLAs discussed many of the factors currently putting stress on the industry and debated some potential solutions that could help increase shore prices.
Several MLAs pointed to a statistic in former auditor general Colin Younker’s review of the industry that found in Nova Scotia, over 80 per cent of exported lobster is sold to the more lucrative live market, while only eight per cent of P.E.I. lobster is sold to the live market.
The vast majority of P.E.I. lobster is processed.
Liberal MLA Richard Brown asked the fishermen whether they are in favour of developing holding facilities for live lobster in P.E.I. in order to keep and later release on the market when prices are at a premium, the way grain farmers utilize grain elevators.
McGeoghgan said this is an idea the association is exploring.
“We are looking at this so we can get the numbers, see what it costs to actually put up these facilities, how big, who’s going to be in charge of them. I think there’s a real potential there,” he said.
“It would take the so-called glut off the market.”
In the meantime, Bobby Jenkins of the Southern Kings Fishermen’s Association said lobster fishers are hoping for some help this year with fuel costs.
He told the committee this will be significant factor in 2014 operating costs, so the association is hoping government will offer an enhanced fuel rebate program to help keep costs down.
“Whatever help we can get there I think would be a big plus,” Jenkins said.
As for the lobster levy, McGeoghegan did not offer details on how it would be administered, but did say it would only go ahead if a majority of Island lobster fishers are in favour of it.
About 75 per cent of north shore fishermen have already voted in favour of a levy this season with the province's other two fishing areas also planning a vote on the issue.
It has been estimated such a levy would generate up to $500,000 for lobster marketing initiatives, if matched by processors and buyers.