Homarus Canadianus loses lobster name game

Steve Sharratt
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Canadian lobster may have to masquerade for European market

The Canadian lobster industry is scrambling to get “Homarus Canadianus” approved so this country's lobster doesn't have to be labelled as American in order to enter the European market.

Canadian lobster will have to masquerade as Americans once again if Maritime seafood is going to gain access into one of the most lucrative marketplaces in the world.

And all because of three European countries that say no and a language scarcely used by anyone but the Pope.

The fishing industry is anxious to gain access to the 28 countries of Europe, but the European Union requires that lobster must be identified by its Latin name — namely “Homarus Americanus” or American lobster.

Needless to say, countless Canadian industry officials are not impressed with the identity crisis as packaging orders are being placed for the upcoming spring season.

“Time has run out for lobster processors (in Atlantic Canada)  and they are giving in to the confusion and placing orders to put ‘American lobster’ on their products,’’ says one Island processor.

“All the time and effort that has been spent on marketing and promoting Canadian lobster now goes down the drain.”

Some might argue a name is just a name, but it’s a topic that didn’t seem that tricky a year ago when negotiations began, especially when at least 20 other countries approved the change to “Homarus Canadianus”.  So far Germany, Sweden and Italy, for various reasons, are holding out on a label change to specify a Canadian product.

However, with the spring fishing season pending, some processors are capitulating with the American designation to ensure access to the lucrative marketplace of 740 million people.

The labelling designation currently faces all processed (popsicle pack) lobster, but officials say the impersonation will just as easily spread to the live market as well.

That has many fishermen worried because while U.S. lobsters can be caught year round, the Canadian system of short seasons is acclaimed for producing the superior product. And Maritime fishermen are currently in the throes of establishing a penny a pound levy to help create a marketing fund to promote Atlantic Canadian lobster.

“Lobster is Canada’s most valuable seafood export and our government will continue to strongly advocate at every level so our exporters can brand their products as Canadian,” said federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea, who will address the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association annual meeting today at the Delta Prince Edward in Charlottetown.

Officials are scrambling to either get the label ruling for “Homarus Canadianus” approved, or a decision reversed by some major processors willing to go with the American identification on their packaging.

“It’s a very big concern for us as we try to brand P.E.I. lobster,’’ said Craig Avery, president of the PEIFA.

“If this is not changed, we would have to put “Homarus Americanus” on our labels and we support the processors in their quest for “Homarus Canadianus.”

Homarus Americanus – to designate Atlantic lobster – was conjured up in 1837 by Belgium born French zoologist Henri-Milne Edwards.

“It’s an EU rule, but that doesn’t mean the industry can’t put a big maple leaf on the pack or whatever,’’ suggested Sophie Doucet, director of communications with Shea.

Geoff Irvine of the Lobster Council of Canada said changing the commercial designation has required individual applications to each of the EU countries over the past year and the majority have complied.

“The major packers (here) have agreed to use the required name "American lobster" on their packaging for one more year with the hope that we will have the other three countries onside by next winter,” he said.

Organizations: European Union, Delta Prince Edward, Lobster Council of Canada

Geographic location: Maritime, Atlantic Canada, Europe Germany Sweden Italy U.S. P.E.I. Fishermen Belgium

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Recent comments

  • Grant Stentiford
    February 27, 2015 - 19:05

    sorry folks but Homarus americanus will stay as such unless your Canadian form is shown to be different (which it is not). This is not politic but basic taxonomy. Read the rules of the International committee for zoological Nomenclature if you need to clarify your thoughts

  • Grant Stentiford
    February 27, 2015 - 18:44

    frankly nonsense. You cannot change the name of Homarus americanus to another form UNLESS you show than the Canadian lobster is a different species (which it is not). Hence any new name will not be recognised and will be illegitimate according to the rule of the International Committee for Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN). Hence americanus will remain despite political and economic forces

    • Arnold Nickerson 3rd
      March 03, 2015 - 20:43

      American & Canadian lobsters have all the same body parts,but there color is altogether different.Ask,any lobsterman .

  • The Observer from Stratford
    February 27, 2015 - 10:03

    I can't believe that the three EU countries won't agree to the name. I suspect that they've been "influenced" by

    • Janet Pratt
      February 27, 2015 - 10:27

      Perhaps they look on US and Canada as both part of North AMERICA and thus both countries are American? They do not label the US lobster as that - U.S. Lobster but American. It is too bad because Canadian and US would be a more exact label and give a certain cache to the lobster's origins. But American, to me, is still correct.

  • The Urban Oysterman
    February 27, 2015 - 08:50

    Pure straw talk for the scared-crow. Every ocean product that moves through the EU for sale has to carry the latin family species name. That way, an Ocean Perch fillet does not become a Red Snapper fillet... I think you get the gest, sensible! We read once that close to 70% of all North Atlantic Lobster comes out of Canadian waters. These Northern Beauties, a few months ago, in a Norwegian City's Fish Market Restaurant were selling served for $54.00 CDN. The protein fished product should have been quota caught way back when the new fishers' trucks were actually paid in full for, maybe the late 70's, early '80's. at purchase! Look at the money that this side-bar of a continuous Lobster pricing saga has poured through the storm drain on the deck of life's boat! The Lobster Market over the past, since Fall, 2008, is being controlled by the North American corporate greed package. SYSCO, COSCO and their sisters and brothers are telling the water workers what will be the price for their live hunted protein. Put a daramtic Canadian Flag design on The Rubber Band is the simplist and least expensive move. If ACCOA wishes to team with the continuous provincial and Federal subsidies for marketing and plant extensions, have these financial sugar daddies design a Canadian Labster Rubber Claw Band that plays The Canadian Anthem when touched! Ship it Homarus Ameriicanus in Latin as it is it's proper Scienticific named and put the Canadian flag band, with or without the Anthem, on it's claws, you bunch of Homo Sapiens. Get over it...Homarus amer⋅i⋅canus noun synonym: American lobster, more generic (hypernym): true lobster member of (holonym): genus Homarus, Homarus parts (meronym): American lobster, Maine lobster, Northern lobster How much snow are you in anyway, watch the brain freeze.

    • School
      February 27, 2015 - 13:50

      You should give up being an "oysterman" and go back to school. I have rarely seen such an illiterate bunch of rambling. Couldn't even make it all the way through. We are all dumber thanks to your nonsense.

    February 27, 2015 - 08:41

    I am quite sure there is plenty of room on the package to let consumers know the Homarus Americanus they are buying is from Canada . Is this just a scam to keep prices to fishers low again even with a weak Canadian dollar !!! Much ado about nothing , smells fishy .

  • Nice
    February 27, 2015 - 07:56

    Well done Gail. You and your cons have done a great service to our lobster fishermen by not having the ability to negotiate this with the EU. Typical of you and your right wing government where diplomacy is no longer an option.