Fisheries Minister Ron MacKinley wonders about lobster levy

Published on August 6, 2014

Captain Norman Peters, who has been fishing lobster out of North Rustico, P.E.I. for more than 50 years, was on the wharf Saturday April 19, 2014, getting some his traps ready for the opening of the season April 30. The ice in some harbours and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence could be a problem for fishermen but most are not worried. The main thing on their mind is the price that will be paid for lobster. Peters said fishermen have to get at least $4 per pound to make it profitable.

©Guardian photo by Brian McInnis

MONTAGUE — Fisheries Minister Ron MacKinley is wondering how long it will take before Island fishermen plan to proceed with a provincewide vote on whether to approve a lobster marketing levy.

The concept was well received last spring when details from the Maritime Lobster Panel recommended a one-cent-per-pound levy for both fishermen and processors as a way to raise funds for marketing strategies.

Such a levy could generate up to $500,000 for lobster marketing initiatives here, if matched by processors and buyers.

“We’ve had the spring season come and go and we’re coming up on the fall season now, which further delays this,’’ MacKinley said. “I’m wondering how long they expect to take … I would have thought it might have been done this summer.”

About 75 per cent of north shore fishermen (LFA 24) have already voted in favour of a levy, leaving LFA 25 and 26A still to cast ballots.

MacKinley said with the fall lobster fishery pending (LFA 25) in western P.E.I., it will now push the levy decision back even later into the year — possibly before Christmas.

“I know summer can be busy, but I think we all want to have some details lined up as to how we will handle the levy so we can help bolster sales next year,’’ MacKinley said in an interview.

Despite lower prices, Island fishermen in LFA 24 landed significant amounts of lobster and some observers expect another record year of landings before the sun sets on 2014.

Last week, the Nova Scotia government announced a five-cent levy within its boundaries as a way to initiate more sales. The plan is to levy two cents a pound for generic marketing efforts and three cents a pound for a quality pilot project to realize greater economic return and expand new markets.

P.E.I. won’t follow suit on five cents, MacKinley says, since that’s already being done.

“We already have such a quality program being followed by our fishermen and processors and we’re way ahead in that respect.”