By GWYDION MORRIS
March 5, 2014
Marketing Island lobster as a uniquely Island product in the same way Anne of Green Gables or P.E.I. Potatoes are marketed would benefit the industry, the government was told at a committee meeting on lobster March 4.
That was among the suggestions on how to improve the industry at the meeting in Charlottetown.
“That’s the kind of scenario lobster fishermen would like to see,” said fisherman and MLA Charlie McGeoghegan.
The industry is not supporting the fishermen who work so hard to bring the product out of the sea, McGeoghegan added.
“Everyone knows the price is way too low, even the public have shown us support.”
On a recent trip, McGeoghegan studied the lobster industries of Massachusetts, Maine and Cape Breton. They are able keep their lobsters alive and healthier for months on end, as opposed to the Island’s few weeks. This allows those processers to transport their live lobsters worldwide, he said.
“It’s cold, cold water and circulation, it’s not rocket science.”
The idea of fair trade was briefly discussed. Fishermen would be paid a fairer price for the lobster while the cost to buy lobster would rise.
MLA Buck Watts said fishermen are tired of the low prices they receive. He supported the fair trade idea as the best way for fishermen to get a better price for their catch.
“They’re so frustrated because they just don’t know what to do to get the price up.”
With lobster going through six hands before it reaches the table, and the price marked up by such a large margin, there is plenty of wiggle room for fishermen to see better prices, said Watts.
“The big problem is regardless of the price the fishermen get at the wharf, that price doesn’t change, which leads them to believe there is a larger profit to make.”
The marketing scheme would be stronger if all the Maritime provinces came together to market their lobster as New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have a larger lobster industry than P.E.I., said MLA Colin Lavie.
“If other Maritime provinces don’t come together, can P.E.I. do this alone?”
The fisheries minister should be the one to take the lead on this initiative, said Lavie. That move would benefit the entire province so it should be the responsibility of the provincial government.
“Everyone in the business wants to move forward.”
With over half of the Island lobster being processed into cans, more focus should be given on shipping live lobster, which is sold at a higher price, Lavie said. There should be studies on how Island lobsters in holding tanks can be kept alive longer.
“We need a better assessment on them.”