© 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.
ALBERTON - In Atlantic Canada's lobster fishery about a billion dollars changes hands annually, says Mike McGeoghegan, president of the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association.
"Where is the money going? Follow the money and you'll get your answer."
McGeoghegan was making a pitch to have the governments of the Atlantic Provinces fund a market intelligence exchange for the industry.
Market intelligence is something that two reports on the lobster fishery recommended last year.
The reports also recommended a marketing levy with some of the monies collected being applied towards funding market intelligence.
Trouble is, the levy is not likely to be collected until at least next year, and McGeoghegan said the market intelligence is needed now.
The PEIFA believes industry should help fund the market intelligence once the levy is set up, but contends the industry can't wait until then, pressing for interim funding from the provinces to get things moving.
Prices have stalled at $3.75 a pound for canners and $4.25 a pound for markets, despite catches that are considerably off last year's rate.
Although the price per pound is a full dollar better than last spring, considering the drop in landings, McGeoghegan doubts if the landed value has moved upward.
The lower landings and an improvement in exchange rates for export purposes should have powered a greater increase, he suggested.
"I would think it would be higher. Eight years ago they were $6.50 and $5.50
"How come we can't seem to capture that market back again? What's going on in the marketing world that we can't seem to get back on level playing ground?" McGeoghegan questioned.
"Information is power, and right now we're lacking information. That's the problem with our industry right now: we're ignorant of what really goes on and what's happening in our industry."
"The more information you know, the better equipped you are to make a rational decision," he said, suggesting fishermen have actually been in operating in a vacuum for the past century with respect to lobster prices.
"We need to end the mystery in this industry and assist all sectors in becoming profitable," he stated.
McGeoghegan blames this spring's lower landings on colder than normal water temperature.
Catches soared on May 19 but the water temperature has backed off four degrees since then and landings have dropped accordingly, he said.
He acknowledges landings could take a step forward if weather conditions improve.
The president admits he is aware some Islanders are getting tired of lobster fishermen "whining" over poor prices, and he said he's tired of it too, arguing it would stop if prices climbed to a reasonable level. They need to be a bare minimum of $5 per pound, he maintained.
"I want to be able to say, ‘listen, we're doing good. The price is good, the fish are good, the fishermen are doing well. The industry is running fine.'"
But right now, he said, millions needs to be spent on boats and equipment here on P.E.I. and that can't happen until the price improves.
"Lets get to the place where we don't have to do this anymore - all the cards are on the table, everybody knows where the money is going, flowing back and forth, where the profit level is, and how do we give the consumer a better product than what we're giving him right now, so that when he's happy we're happy."
"Let's get this thing up and running, because it's needed," he said of market intelligence. "It's needed in the industry in order for us to move forward."