Fisheries ministers seek consensus to implement lobster marketing levy

The Canadian Press
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Snow and ice still cover lobster traps on the wharf in Covehead and ice is still heavy in parts of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Fisheries ministers are meeting in Halifax with harvesting and processing groups Wednesday and Thursday in an effort to strengthen the struggling industry.

HALIFAX — Fisheries ministers from the three Maritime provinces say they’re hoping for industry consensus to implement a fee to promote lobsters that would be paid by fishermen, buyers and processors.

The ministers are meeting in Halifax with harvesting and processing groups Wednesday and Thursday in an effort to strengthen the struggling lobster industry.

They are discussing a proposed levy of one cent per pound to be paid by fishermen, and another cent per pound to be paid by the onshore side of the industry to do a better job branding the crustacean.

Fisheries Minister Michael Olscamp of New Brunswick said industry agreement with the levy would give the three governments the green light to pass laws and create funding for marketing lobsters.

“It’s very important the levy be introduced because of the potential it offers in terms of making this a more efficient industry,” Olscamp said. “If we could have a consensus with the levy or at least a consensus to move forward in an expedient matter, I’d be happy about that.”

The levy was an idea recommended last year by a three-member panel that reviewed the lobster industry. The panel estimated it would raise about $2.5 million a year.

Nova Scotia Fisheries Minister Keith Colwell and his P.E.I. counterpart Ron MacKinley said their governments could simply impose the levy, but they would rather do so with the industry clearly behind it.

“Exactly how we’d do it, I’m not sure yet,” Colwell said. “We can do it through regulation, not legislation. We could impose it, but I’d rather do it in conjunction with the industry.”

Colwell said one challenge is that there are more than 25 groups representing lobster fishermen in the province, and there is no umbrella group to speak for all of the harvesters.

MacKinley said in Prince Edward Island, there is a single fishermen’s organization and it supports the levy.

“My job is going to be easy in Prince Edward because we have on organization and we have them supporting the levy,” said MacKinley.

The New Brunswick branch of the Maritime Fishermen’s Union, one of the region’s largest fishermen’s groups, is boycotting the meeting over a disagreement with Ottawa’s decision to boost the minimum lobster carapace size by one millimetre rather than two millimetres.

But the organization has passed a resolution saying it favours the levy and is urging the provincial governments to act quickly.

The panel report also concluded that fishermen and the various processing and buying groups involved in the lobster industry lack information, concentrate on quantity over quality, and don’t co-operate with each other.

The report also said Canadian fishermen have been losing market share to better-organized competitors in Maine and recommended a minimum price-setting mechanism be set up by industry groups and enforced by provincial governments. It said if the industry had stable prices and joint marketing efforts, the chaotic rush to be first to fish for lobster may decline.

But at the outset of the meeting, all three provincial governments said they found fishing groups in their jurisdictions were unlikely to quickly agree on such a price-setting system.

Geographic location: HALIFAX, Maritime, New Brunswick Prince Edward Island Nova Scotia Ottawa Maine

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Recent comments

  • Tired of meetings
    March 27, 2014 - 08:20

    The thing that irritates me the most about this article is the boycott from the MFU. It's the same old thing. One area trying to impose new regulations on another. Its better yet...a jealousy driven era. If the MFU wants to go up in size, go ahead, but don't drag PEI into it. If 26a spring fishers did a trap reduction..great!...don't start crying foul and asking the North side to do it now. If Nova Scotia wants to fish all markets...fine...but leave others alone. Each area should be allowed to make their own management decisions and not be forced to change for the sake of jealousy. I remember not that long ago when we fished a two and a half inch carapace size. A size that created a niche market that only PEI had. Now everybody wants to keep heading towards market size. STOP already! We all can't fish the same think we have problems now? Wait and see what happens when all districts aim for the live market and raw tail markets with the same lobster!....will be a complete mess. There was a lot of good things that came out of protesting and opened some eyes for sure with our bureaucrats but enough with the meetings and studies! We are approaching another season with very little done to secure a price, a fair price!, before the season starts. One of the best articles to come out some time ago was by David Weale!....where's the investigation into the brokers I wonder? Nobody is saying a word! Because they're like the Irving's...they own the processors. Who in turn screw us. The brokers may say to the media this is not true...but we know the difference. It's time to move on and agree to a price before the traps hit the water. If you want to sign on....sign...if you want to exist within the current it. Marketing levy will work only if the processors benefit and in turn help fisherman benefit. They do need the fisherman as fisherman need them. It's not rocket science. Certain processors control "the voice" of opinion. Time for that to change!!!

  • easy
    March 26, 2014 - 18:06

    Mackinley says his job is gonna be easy...believe that cause his career as fisheries minister 2 yr old could do just as good a job...please robert ghiz give your head a shake and see what is going or should I say what is not going on here ....gentle about poor place paradise. ...try that for a new slogan!!!! Btw all mla and ministers prob will get a wage increase or a new gov vehicle to drive at least...