© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
Snow and ice still cover lobster traps on the wharf in Covehead.
A one-cent lobster levy was endorsed by fishermen, buyers, shippers and processors from across the Maritimes at a summit this week in Halifax – a development being applauded by both the federal and provincial fisheries ministers.
P.E.I. Fisheries Minister Ron MacKinley said the majority of fishermen he has spoken with have said they are in favour of a levy as a way to raise money for more targeted marketing of Maritime lobster.
“I was very pleased that Nova Scotia and New Brunswick supported it very strongly to the point that there was a consensus that their governments move as quickly as possible to get the legislation in place so they can get the levy on as soon as possible.”
The levy was one of the key recommendations in the Maritime Lobster Panel Report. This report was the focus of the Canadian Lobster Value Recovery Summit, which wrapped up Thursday in Halifax. It was hosted by the three Maritime fisheries ministers in an effort to discuss the report’s recommendations.
MacKinley says P.E.I. already has the ability under its existing Natural Products Marketing Act to enable a levy to go forward in P.E.I.
“We here are going to tread water until the other provinces are ready, when they get their legislation in place,” MacKinley said.
“We’re ahead of the game.”
The levy will support the creation of a generic marketing plan to promote Canadian lobster as a premium product around the world. It will also help to develop new markets as well as collect and distribute up-to-date market data to all industry stakeholders.
Several presenters from different seafood sectors spoke at the summit of how levies in their jurisdictions benefitted their own fish and shellfish industries.
Canada has a long way to go in identifying lobster as a Canadian product, says Federal Fisheries Minister and Egmont MP Gail Shea.
She says she has realized in her travels that many people in other countries do not realize P.E.I. or even Canada produces lobster.
They associate east coast lobster with Boston, due to the New England state’s successful marketing campaigns.
“We do have a lot of work to do in marketing,” she said.
Shea believes the consensus reached this week among all the industry stakeholders on the levy is a big step in the right direction, especially since fishermen, buyers and processors are often at odds.
“The fishers, the processors, the markets all have to be part of that equation,” she said.
“Because if you work against each other, you keep the price low. So everybody has to work together to promote what we know is the best seafood in the world.”