Lobster fisheries in peril, meeting held in Charlottetown to discuss solutions

By Mitchell Peters
March 6, 2014

MLA Charles McGeoghegan remembers seeing lobsters going for $3 a pound at the wharf, then going into a restaurant and seeing the price as high as $20. That has to change if the P.E.I. lobster fishery is going to do this,he said.
He made the comment at a legislative committee hearing in Charlottetown on March 4 held to discuss ideas to improve the fishery.
One possible solution might be to track how many hands the lobster passes through before it reaches a consumer’s plate, said McGeoghegan.
Lobster landing prices may go up if fewer people had to handle it from the point of capture until the point it makes it’s way onto a plate, he said.
The reason for the drop in price last year was a 22 per cent increase in lobsters landed by Islanders. That has caused a dramatic decrease in price per pound for the Island’s lobster fishermen, said McGeoghegan.
Despite a decrease in profits for fishermen, processors are continuing to sell lobsters for more and more, he said.
“What can fishermen do to get processors to take them more seriously?”
Is it possible to look to the Island’s potato board for a possible solution to the problem?
Geoff Irvine, executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada, focused on marketing and a proposed penny per pound levy fishermen could pay in order to build a marketing fund.
Approximately 75 per cent of the Island’s north shore fishermen have voted on holding a levy. The other two fishing communities now plan to vote on this as well.
Colin Yonker, who prepared a report on the fishery, said the Maritime provinces account for 55 per cent of North Americas lobsters. He would like to see a levy incorporated.
MLA Colin Lavie said he was concerned about the outcome if the other Maritime provinces didn’t come together. He wanted to know if P.E.I. could do it alone.
“Not likely, we need other provinces with us on this,” said Yonker.
A fair trade aspect was also proposed. P.E.I. would have its own brand of lobster, which it would promote in hopes of getting a better price. However it this may be difficult since the U.S. is the biggest buyer of P.E.I. lobster and considering the exchange rate on the dollar means it will find a price both parties will agree on.
MLA Richard Brown suggested exploring options in the live lobster industry. It was where the biggest profits were to be made, he said.
“If there’s money to be made in the live industry why aren’t we exploring options?” said Brown.
“If everyone else can ship them live, what is our problem?”
Lobsters from Europe can go for as much as $60 a pound.
There is new technology in the live industry that allows the transportation of live lobsters over farther and farther distances. The key lies in cold-water temperature. If it’s the right temperature, lobsters can be held for months without negative side effects such as losing a shell or females laying eggs, Brown said.
“This should be a no brainer.”