Sigh of relief as lobster prices edge higher

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Brian Matthews guides a load of lobster pans out of a boat at West Point in this Guardian file photo.

Lower Canadian dollar helps boost exports but fall, winter meetings were of great value

There is some irony that a key reason for higher shore prices for lobster this spring has more to do with our lower dollar than all the meetings, reports and marketing levies discussed over the winter. A lower Canadian dollar means our lobster is more attractive to foreign buyers, especially in the U.S. Another reason is a growing demand in Asia, thanks to recent trade missions to that populous and largely untapped market.

P.E.I. fishermen had threatened they would not sail this spring unless there was a negotiated price before the first lobster was landed. It was a key argument throughout a busy fall and winter as Maritime governments, fishermen, processors, buyers and marketing experts met in various forums and locations. Two reports brought in very worthwhile recommendations. A lobster summit in Halifax identified key problems and solutions. P.E.I. fishermen met across the province to discuss a marketing levy while seeking greater transparency in price-setting mechanisms.

Nothing beats the law of supply and demand but no one should consider the discussions held over the past months as a waste of time. They brought forward some excellent ideas and a greater understanding among all stakeholders. As P.E.I. Fisheries Minister Ron MacKinley said, we have to start somewhere and this spring’s baby steps should lead to better things.

Fishermen made it plain they needed a better price than $2.75 for canners and $3.25 for markets. It isn’t feasible to fish at that price and lose money. All parties knew that an initial price offer similar to last year would have resulted in an industry shut down. It would be like asking someone to work for less than the minimum wage. Processors, buyers and fishermen did meet over the past number of weeks and while an opening shore price wasn’t settled, there was every indication it would be around the $4 mark or better and that’s what happened.

Shore prices today are between $3.75 to $4 for canners and $4.25 to $4.50 for markets. Reports indicate lobster peddlers were selling out last weekend at $5 for canners and $6 markets. Those prices are not unreasonable.

This season started slowly because of lingering ice, cold weather, frigid water and a persistent northeast wind — all of which deters lobsters from trapping. The lower landings should force prices to edge higher. In any event, the stronger price is good news for P.E.I. lobster fishermen. Mother’s Day provides one of the heaviest demand periods for lobster so this weekend should help reduce supply.

Stronger lobster prices are just what this province needs to boost our economy. Now if catches can also rebound, there will be real reason for optimism.

Oh, how we long for a balmy, bouncy southwest breeze.


WI cleanup still essential

There might come a time when the annual P.E.I. Women’s Institute spring roadside cleanup is no longer necessary. But based on the litter visible along most Island ditches and roadways this spring, the WI campaign is needed more than ever. For whatever reason — thoughtlessness, carelessness, stupidity, ignorance or just an arrogant attitude that someone else should clean up your mess, people insist on dumping litter out their vehicle’s window, or make a mess through some other thoughtless decision.

Nothing presents a more disappointing view for visitors and residents alike than to see litter scattered along fences, hedgerows or roadways on our gentle Island. That first impression says a lot about our communities and us.

It was a long harsh winter and litter was allowed to build up — some by accident and a lot more by intent. The province needs a good spring-cleaning so please support the WI and its friends this Saturday.

Geographic location: P.E.I. Women, U.S., Asia Maritime Halifax

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