Association sets out guarantees it seeks for quid pro quo deal with government
P.E.I. Fishermen's Association
The measured, generally supportive response from the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association to two reports on the Island and Maritime lobster fishery is pleasantly surprising and good news for the industry. The provincial and federal governments, processors and others were waiting patiently to hear the official response from fishermen after the two reports were released last month.
The association took its time, meeting with the authors of both reports, hearing from fishermen and thoroughly examining the reports before responding. There was some apprehension because early fishermen’s reaction was negative, especially to the idea of a levy to assist in marketing lobsters.
Whatever misgivings the association might have had at first, have been replaced with cautious optimism that something might actually be launched to bring some stability to the industry. Fishermen want some guarantees they can make a decent living and have a good idea before leaving the wharf what they might expect for price when they return with their catch.
Last Thursday, PEIFA president Mike McGeoghegan, came out in support of most recommendations from the Maritime Lobster Panel’s report released Nov. 7 and the P.E.I. lobster report by former auditor general Colin Younker on Nov. 13, calling the reports good starting points to address the ills facing the industry.
The association had an immediate suggestion of its own, asking P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz to use the Council of Atlantic Premiers to ensure region-wide government leadership in addressing what it calls a lobster crisis.
Fishermen say they are earning 25 per cent less for their catch than seven years ago while their costs have skyrocketed. McGeoghegan calls it a devastating development and an economic hardship that 1,200 P.E.I. fishermen, their families and their communities can’t sustain.
The association suggests there are areas of consensus where industry and governments can co-operate such as a legislative price-setting mechanism, establishment of a Maritime Market Intelligence Institute, implementation of a levy to support generic marketing and increased government and industry investment in new product development.
P.E.I. fishermen want guarantees a regional marketing plan will take into consideration the large impact of canner lobster on which the Island fishery is so dependent.
Support for the market intelligence institute is conditional on it having the authority to access cost of production data from processors as well as fishermen. The levy also has a cost for fishermen’s support. The reports called for stakeholders to contribute, but the association is calling on the federal and provincial governments to match fishermen’s contributions to make marketing even more effective.
While politicians prefer the industry solve its own problems, McGeoghegan is not about to let them off the hook so easily. Fishermen will do their part, promises McGeoghegan, but he made it clear: “Our elected leaders also need to recognize the role they have to play”
P.E.I. Fisheries Minister Ron MacKinley has agreed to help with an historic pilot project that would see P.E.I. lobster prices negotiated by fishermen and processors before the spring fishing season.
MacKinley has asked the association and the P.E.I. Seafood Processors Association to work out how this could be accomplished, offering a mediator to help them out with this pilot project. The province stresses there will be no legislation unless fishermen and processors agree on a mechanism that works for the industry as a whole. Support from fishermen removes a potential major hurdle in efforts to bring some sanity to the lobster fishery. It’s encouraging and let’s hope both sides can find some common ground for a negotiated spring price.