New vendor permit rule upsets fishermen

Sherry Martell
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RIVER JOHN - Lobster fishermen are outraged by the province's food safety program requiring them to apply for food vendor permits to sell live lobster from the roadside.
Ronnie Heighton, spokesman for the Northumberland Fisherman's Association, said requiring fishermen to hold a food vendor permit by May 4, days after the lobster fishing season begins is outrageous.
"I can't imagine the minister agreeing to this and I think it's the bureaucrats doing this behind the minister's back, in my opinion," said Heighton.
To improve food safety standards vendors selling live lobster from the roadside will be required to have a food permit similar to other lobster vendors. Traditional direct sales from fishing boats are exempt, however.
Mike Horwich, director of food protection at the Department of Agriculture, said last winter there were an unprecedented number of fishermen direct-marketing lobster. Because they were selling perishable food they were required to have a permit, but many simply were not aware of it so the department has launched an education campaign highlighting food safety standards.
"Our food safety system is set up to protect consumers," said Horwich.
"We strive for food safety standards which are applied equally to all in the industry, from the start of food's journey all the way to the consumer."
Heighton said he was blind-sided by the permit requirement, having received first word about it on Monday when he picked up the mail, and questions the poor judgment of the province's policy makers to enforce this at a time when the economy is depressed forcing fishermen to bear another expense.
"If they were going to do this it should have been done months ago," Heighton said. "They know when the season starts and once again we are being ignored."
He said the timing of the program couldn't be worse, being announced days before
the season is set to begin, and feels it is
unnecessary.
"If you are selling live lobster out of the back of your truck and it's not moving, it's dead," Heighton said. "Consumers are not going to buy dead lobster."
Following the initial application there is a waiting period of 10 business days before a permit is issued and the cost is $40.53 including tax.
Darryl MacIvor, president of the local Maritime Fishermen's Union, said the policy is a knee-jerk reaction triggered by a situation that arose last November in southwest Nova Scotia when hundreds of fishermen began selling lobster from the back of pickups because buyers were only offering $3.25 per pound.
"It feels like the province is trying to handcuff our local guys," said MacIvor.
He said right now the policy may not have an impact but if fishermen here are not happy with the price buyers are offering their hands are tied unless they have a permit to market their catches themselves.
"I would encourage the local fishermen to call their MLAs and voice their concerns," said Heighton.
Vendors can obtain a food permit by contacting the food safety section at 902-424-1173.

smartell@trurodaily.com

Organizations: Department of Agriculture

Geographic location: RIVER JOHN, Northumberland Fisherman, Maritime Fishermen Nova Scotia

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