Higher lobster price still not enough to pay bills, P.E.I. fishermen say

Steve Sharratt
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Captain Josh Clory, right, unloads the catch Wednesday at Seafood 2000 in Georgetown. Fishermen say while the prices are up slightly this year, they are still not making enough money to make ends meet.

Increase is simply not enough in light of lower catches, say Island fishermen, adding that industry is facing uncertain future

GEORGETOWN – Nick Martell has an idea on how to improve low lobster prices this year.

It won’t solve all the problems facing the fishing industry, but it certainly showcases the discrepancies.

“There wouldn’t be such a low price if I had a friend out in Fort McMurray who I could ship lobster to,” says Martell, 35, from the side of his boat docked in Georgetown. “He could take them to the Walmart parking lot there and sell them easily for $8 a pound.”

But this isn’t Alberta and Martell is reminded of it when he checks his weigh-in ticket that shows he’ll average about $4 a pound for his lower than average catch here on Wednesday.

“That’s just not enough,’’ he says. “There is no way most fishermen are going to pay the bills and make a profit on that kind of money. Yes, we’re getting more than last year…but that’s just making up for the currency changes.”

Josh Clory couldn’t agree more. He unloaded his trays of lobster at the Seafood 2000 plant here knowing it will barely cover his effort.

“Right now the water is so cold that catches are down,’’ he says. “So we may be getting a buck more than last year - which has more to do with the lower Canadian dollar - but I’m landing less lobster.”

Craig Avery of the Western Gulf Fishermen’s Association in western P.E.I. estimates landings are down 30 to 50 per cent.

“I figure my own landings are down 30 to 35 per cent and a drop of around 27 per cent is enough to offset the current price increase,” he says.

Landings could certainly improve as the season wears on, but there is little hope for improved price this year. It’s a buck higher than last year when fishermen went on strike for the first two weeks of the season and paralyzed the industry.

But that, says Clory, only exemplifies the crisis that sees certified and experienced fishermen, burdened with exorbitant lines of credit, landing a resource that commands a significant price for everyone but the primary producer.

“I don’t know what we can do about it really,’’ he says in the late morning sunshine. “We went on strike last year and that didn’t work.”

Martell works as a crane operator in Alberta for most of the year just to make ends meet.

“My company is nice enough to give me 10 weeks off to come home and fish…..I basically come home to lose money.”

While Alberta is a job, P.E.I. is home, and Martell hopes things will eventually change so the fleet he purchased just two years ago will provide enough of a living so there’s less need to head west.

“I’m all for the marketing levy to kick in and all for the provincial government offering to help because something has to be done…..there’s just too much uncertainty.”

Fishermen say they can’t understand how the P.E.I. lobster continually commands the lowest price in the chain, when every other region from Boston to New Brunswick, realizes a higher price.

P.E.I. fishermen are receiving $3.75 a pound for canners and $4.25 for markets, up from $2.75 and $3.25 a pound last spring. Nova Scotia fishermen, however, are realizing $4.50 a pound for their canners and anywhere from $5.00 to $5.50 a pound for markets.

Some reports claim the mainland price has declined this week because the glut of P.E.I. lobster pushing the price down.

“I don’t know about a glut,’’ says Clory. “You saw the few trays I brought in today and that can’t be called a glut.”

Martell and Clory hope the marketing levy is implemented as soon as possible and legislation is passed to ensure a set price before traps hit the water next year. The levy would take a penny a pound from both fishermen and processors and raise about $500,000 every year for marketing and promotion of P.E.I. lobster.

“Something has to be done…or this won’t be an industry,’’ says Clory.

People who don’t fish or own a fleet (lobster boat and gear) have no idea of the stress involved with a job dependent on so many variables, added Martell.

“I walked into the Sobeys in Fort Mac one day when lobster was $25 a pound and I wanted some. The cost for six lobsters was over $160 and I paid it,” he said. “You know I really enjoy fishing…but it’s hard when you are fishing for nothing.”



Organizations: Walmart, Seafood 2000, Sobeys

Geographic location: P.E.I., Alberta, GEORGETOWN Fort McMurray Western Gulf Fishermen Boston New Brunswick Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

  • Searching
    March 09, 2015 - 21:09

    Not a post on fishing but rather a post to find info on a family that fished in PEI year 1992. With last name starting with MC As well possibly could have a family member or someone who may have the names Devin Giles , s. Helping a hound lad find his bio family any help please email.All replies will be kept private v_star_gal@hotmail.com

  • Spare Me
    May 16, 2014 - 10:56

    Both with 4x4 trucks-cause you know you have to get to the wharf in May and June....live within your means lads

  • Mar
    May 16, 2014 - 03:55

    It's funny how people will say whatever they want over the internet, but would never come shooting off to you in person.... The internet is the best defence they can hide behind an invisible wall with a fake name. If anything ever happens to your job, you bet I'll be the first to comment.

  • Murray Schuyler
    May 15, 2014 - 21:02

    I live in Connecticut and bought a cottage 11 years ago when the Canadian dollar was worth about 62 cents US. I am now semi-retired and spend several months in PEI. I read the Guardian online and watch Compass on my Bell Satellite in CT. Our local Supermarket called "Price Choppers" is selling 1 to 1 1/4 lobsters for $6.99 a pound. I'm sure these are Maine lobsters. They sell cooked lobster meat for $19.99. At these prices how could they afford to buy PEI lobsters? I think the American lobster processors are controlling the price of lobsters in the entire North American market. Maine has set landing records in the last several years. It would appear to me the only profitable market is Europe or Asia. The Canadian Industry should concentrate their efforts over seas.

  • reality
    May 15, 2014 - 20:09

    GO WEST LIKE THE REST-suck it up !!!

  • Just sayin
    May 15, 2014 - 19:10

    You forgot to mention your girlfriend sitting at home taking a crews share to draw top pogey.

  • Fisherman
    May 15, 2014 - 19:04

    Why does the guardian interview inexperienced and naive fishermen like these two. They give the whole industry a black eye.

  • Holy smoke
    May 15, 2014 - 18:02

    Why don't you do what your boat says an go :Far Far Away:

  • my thoughts
    May 15, 2014 - 16:58

    To absolutely shocked. Actually I know all about it. Was married to a fisherman for years. Watched him leave home a little before 5am by the time he got to the warf and sailed out his work would start about 6am and he was sailing in and done for the day by 9am. I could have let him claim that I was out with him so I too could have collected big EI the rest of the year but I didnt. Absolutely shocked Is sooking saying its their only way to make a living...well you have 10 other months of the year to make a living like the rest of us. To even ask for a handout is disgusting! The 10 months many of you sit on your rump is handout enough! The 10 weeks they work, the helpers take home a pay stub that says they work 60hrs week but yet if u do the math 6days x 4hrs on long day is 24hrs then top EI for the rest of the year. Its absolutely disgusting! The people who work year around and pay into EI are not taking it out. You are! If I start a seasonal business, why cant I get those benefits? What makes fishermen so special? If business isn't good, suck it up, go bankrupt if you need to. If I invested in a business and it was failing, I wouldn't have a choice. Again, why are fishermen so special?

  • Cody
    May 15, 2014 - 15:03

    At least he's willing to go to alberta and work so he can spend his money. The people that complained about spending that extra money on lobster get off you fat ass and work out here in Alberta. I think people on pei should be paid like fisherman. If there is no material in your work place they should cut your wage

  • Accountant
    May 15, 2014 - 14:37

    I have to comment on the fact these young guys get into fishing thinking they are entitled to live like rock stars and sail around in a boat with the sunglasses and fish lobster. I do these guys taxes and they are in over their head. Why isn't CBC or the Guardian doing a documentary on Finance PEI. They're are fishermen who haven't made payments in as much as 10 years . What would the island taxpayers think of this? Why isn't this situation coming to light?These young guys got caught up in this romantic life of fishing lobster for 2 months and living like a doctor. Well, time to wake up. Start doing without and start making your payments like the rest of us. As an accountant it's hard to feel sorry for such ignorance.

  • open eyes
    May 15, 2014 - 13:45

    People need to realise if this industry go's down it not just the fisherman/woman that will hurt...don't let one meathead that don't know his head from his ass make everyone look bad

  • fishmonger
    May 15, 2014 - 10:22

    Ya you are right "absolutely shocked", I've never fished in my life, you picked your livelihood, I picked mine. I don't expect you to pay me more just so I can make a go of it, and then realizing nobody would pay more for that reason, i.e. your market! , rail at the government to make it so. And kid, how on earth are you going to ship that lobster to Fort Mac, wrapped in newspaper? on a plane? a truck? oh they don't cost you anything, you have friends right? Show me how you can pack and ship that lobster on your wharf in Georgetown to Alberta and not have to charge appropriately.

  • Jon
    May 15, 2014 - 10:07

    Then stop fishing

  • Absolutely shocked
    May 15, 2014 - 09:33

    Those that just commented have clearly never fished in their life... For some of us fisherman and women fishing is our only income.. People who work a regular job get paid 11-12.50/hour.. For us fisherman we go based on what our catches are. So if our catches are really low and we aren't getting enough dollar per pound for our lobster then by the end of the year it is hard to make ends meet. A bunch of us fisherman figured out that we need atleast 6,000 lbs to cover our hired man, our bait, our fuel and our lunches. Maybe some of you should get your head out of that box and think about that... We need a living to.

    • No one cares
      May 15, 2014 - 10:17

      If fishing is not working out for you, do something else, or do it better or smarter of faster or ... That is YOUR business and YOUR problem. In a meantime, if things get really tough, you can collect welfare - tax payer will make sure you will not starve.

    • Real Canadian
      May 15, 2014 - 10:28

      So you struggle to make ends meet for 2 months so you can sit home on pogie for 10 as for hired help what a grand a week for less than 40 hrs (taking into consideration storm days off ) and top stamps. Sounds like a lottery for the hired help

    • Zen Master
      May 15, 2014 - 11:19

      You need a living? Of course everyone needs a living but the difference between fisherman and ordinary folks working 12 months of the year is that us ordinary folks actually don't complain from sun up to sundown about how we're getting a raw deal. In the real world, of which your comment indicates you are not a part of, nothing is handed to you. You go get what you need and when you aren't getting enough, you do something different. As to your point about how much you need to cover your expenses, that actually leaves quite a bit in profits ya know? You have to remember that you work for two months. Never lose sight of that fact lest you make yourself look foolish.

    • Agree
      May 15, 2014 - 11:24

      I agree , you need to make a living . That's a given . To make that years living in 9 weeks is just not reasonable . If you take the 9 six day weeks X by 6hr. days . That is sure a he** of a lot more than 11-12.50/hr . I have been around a fishing family my whole life so am not totally blind to the industry . Fishing now is a lot easier than it was when a fisherman had 1200 traps & hauled them by hand & fished other species or worked at another job for the rest of the year . Fishing today isn't as bad as you guy's like to make it out to be , otherwise you would sell at the exorbitant prices they are today .

  • The Urban Oysterman
    May 15, 2014 - 08:48

    one apparent reason the price decreased is Mother's Day is over! demand receded and that who controls the market, the market. Behind those doors at the WalMart parking lot are 2 or 3 processed value added lobster meat frozen dishes, selling at the WalMart interpreted market price, as does MacLobster, as does Subway Lobster Rolls, and as does the tonnage sold through SYSCO in the America SW. The real, per pound, boat price is not negotiable, because the corporate identity has defined it, already for their interests, not the fishers, yes, for another yearly quarter, or The Gulf season. It will only flex in the live, to boil, scenario, on large urban center's holiday/seasonal measures. I hope we are incorrect! Nothing wrong with a fair price but your fair can be a lot different than the boat down the shore, unfortunately!

    May 15, 2014 - 08:45

    The price is up over 30 per cent fromlast year and now the complaint is not enough lobster. So we have yearly complaints of not enough lobster/too much lobster, low prices/ not enough buyers, etc, etc, etc. Now we have ideas on how to sell your lobster out west for more but waiting for someone to pay for your idea for you. You wanted more money, you got over 30 percent more, Fish or don't fish, make one choice on you own.

  • Rick
    May 15, 2014 - 08:01

    I am seriously tired of fishermen thinking it's the government's responsibility to ensure they make money. Here we have a guy who sees an economic opportunity - shipping to Fort Mac and selling lobster directly - but instead of actually investing in the idea, he's waiting for a handout or for government to do it for him. Also - the currency change in the last year has not been 30%, which is what the increase in prices have been. Plus, the new fleet of Ford's at the wharves are an indication things are not quite as bad as people want you to believe.

    • phil
      May 15, 2014 - 10:00

      Ford's? 4 door Toyota's are more popular to br seen on wharfs these days. New houses, trucks and atvs, top it off with a $200 dinner, and fishermen cant figure out why everyone is tired of the whining? Get a grip

  • Curious
    May 15, 2014 - 07:47

    I have a curious question that I have yet to see addressed . When live lobster sells for $4 a pound . Just how much meat do you get for that $4 ? I seem to have heard from a guy that processed them that you get a return of 35% in meat . How much truth is there in this & what does this make the lobster meat worth a pound without the shell ? Maybe someone with experience can answer this & let us know just exactly how much lobster meat is costing . Would be interesting to know compared to other fish we consume .

  • my thoughts
    May 15, 2014 - 07:46

    Ya sounds like tough times. I felt for you until the last paragraph where you admitted you paid $160 for supper. Most of us are pretty lucky if we have $160 for couple weeks groceries. Suck it up! Fisherman chose the business sometimes its up sometimes its not. Any other business owner cant cry to the government when customers don't want to pay what they want!! A lot of Fisherman and fisherman helpers work their minimum weeks and collect top EI the rest of the year sitting on their rump other business owners cant collect EI in off season. The helpers most certainly take out more in EI benefits than they pay in. It makes me sick really. Ya maybe it sucks but maybe you shouldn't have bought the gear! You took a chance, if it doesnt work out its not up to any government to fix it!

  • enough already
    May 15, 2014 - 06:28

    Buddy if you a making enough money in Fort Mac to pay $ 25 a pound of lobsters you don't get much sympathy from me.

  • jrsplace
    May 15, 2014 - 06:00

    Their's you answer boy only a fool would come back here and fish when he has a perfectly good paying job in the west . If the lobster fishery is a bust put the bad memories behind you and sell out .

    • Confused
      May 15, 2014 - 19:59

      I've read these replays and I'm confused to say the least. I'm pretty sure the the govt regulates more industry's than fishing. No one is looking to get bailed out, just paid fairly for the lobster they work so hard to catch. I know many fishermen from north and south sides and I can't think of one that sits on his rump for ten months of the year. They fish herring,scollops,ground fish, crabs and even Barclams. Also while on EI like the rest of the seasonal workers in our "winter full" province they maintain there boats and fishing gear. Many also travel across Canada, away from their homes and loved ones to find work. Also 6 ,probably 2 lbs, lobsters is only 13 dollars a pound. Any true islander would gladly pay that in the heart of winter 5000kms from home. I also doubt he ate all six himself? If the price of fuel and bait was the same as ten years ago I'm sure they would settle for the outdated price. The reason you hear so many fishermen complaining is because you live on an island full of them and they are being abused by their industry. . Not sure who is making all the profit from the industry but its not the fishermen. Why shouldn't they be able to profit from the industry that generates millions??