Plebiscite to gauge support for the creation of lobster marketing board

Published on December 18, 2014

The video, Our Lobster, Our Communities will focus on the industry in southwestern Nova Scotia.

An historic plebiscite will be held this spring to gauge support for the creation of a marketing board for the Island's seafood king — lobster.

The chairman of the P.E.I. Marketing Council says a mail-in ballot in March will be held following a series of January public meetings to ensure all eligible voters in the fishery understand the proposal.

“The first step in the plebiscite process will be the creation of a Register of Lobster Fishers by Marketing Council,” says Gordon MacBeath. “The register will identify those fishers who will be eligible to vote on a marketing plan being developed by lobster fishers and the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association.”

The plebiscite for all lobster licence holders follows on the heels of an Island wide vote this fall that indicated there was enough support among fishermen to endorse a penny a pound marketing levy to promote P.E.I. lobster worldwide. The penny a pound would be paid by fishermen – and is expected to be matched by processors – to create a marketing fund of about $500,000 annually.

Never before has the lobster industry - traditionally a sell to the company store business - taken such steps to become involved in the marketing and promotion of their resource.  

Marketing council announced Thursday that it will conduct a mail in ballot plebiscite during the month of March 2015 to determine the level of support. Not all lobster fishermen are members of the association.

MacBeath said the marketing council will publish at least one notice in the daily and weekly newspapers within the next week outlining the registration eligibility criteria along with the application process and deadlines.

Lobster fishermen and the PEIFA are in the preliminary stages of drafting a marketing plan that marketing council has agreed to circulate to all registered lobster fishermen in March, along with a mail-in-ballot.

The PEIFA will be discussing the draft copy of the proposed marketing plan at public meetings slated for January 2015.

“Public meetings will give all lobster fishers an opportunity to discuss and have input into the draft plan prior to council conducting the plebiscite,” said MacBeath.

If lobster fishermen who vote in the plebiscite express strong support for the plan, it will be presented to council for approval and then recommended to province. The province will make the final decision on whether a lobster commodity board is formed.

Lobster fishermen want to form a commodity board under the Natural Products Marketing Act as a way to collect a non-refundable levy on all lobsters landed on P.E.I. to promote and grow demand for their resource.

The strong support shown for a marketing levy in a fall vote allowed the petition for a plebiscite to go before marketing council.