By Eric McCarthy - The Journal Pioneer
ALBERTON -- There will be no lobsters coming in to Prince Edward Island ports on Thursday. Fishermen across the province voted during meetings at their ports on Wednesday to tie up for a day in hopes of forcing their demands for better prices.
There had been rumours for days that the price would be around $3.00 a pound, and that was pretty well confirmed on Wednesday with reports of $2.75 for canners and $3.25 for markets. Several hundred eastern P.E.I. boats tied up on Wednesday, and by Wednesday evening other ports followed suit.
“Solidarity” was the buzzword during a meeting of Northport fishermen. Although not all were convinced a one-day tie-up would force a price increase, there was agreement that they had to stick together with their fellow fishermen and stay in port.
About 200 New Brunswick boats stayed ashore Wednesday, too, and there was speculation that number would grow on Thursday.
Mike McGeoghegan, president of the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association, said Nova Scotia fishermen had indicated they will join the blockade next week. One fisherman at the Northport meeting suggested limiting the amount of product coming in just prior to the Mothers’ Day selling frenzy might be enough to gain some upward movement in price.
“They’re looking for solidarity all over the Island,” Western Gulf Fishermen’s Association president Craig Avery said in reporting to fishermen the basis of a telephone call with an organizer in eastern P.E.I. “It’s not necessarily saying it’s going to drive the price sky-high, but it is to say we are trying to do something; we’re trying to come up with an idea to change what’s going on here.”
Area 24 Lobster Advisory Board member David Lewis set the table for the discussion. “We’re fishing lobster for half price,” he said.
“My opinion is it’s a blatant case of price-fixing. Nobody wants to hear it. Trying to prove it is another story,” Avery said. He considered it curious at best that all of a sudden everyone knew what the price would be. “To me, there’s a conglomerate of processors together. Unless there’s a way you can get to twist them a little bit to change things, we’re going to stick with what we’ve got right now.”
Avery said the association did everything it could to promote lobsters all winter and have nothing to show for it.
Jimmy Ashley said it should never come to this. He said fishermen should have left their traps on the wharves until an agreeable price was set.
McGeoghegan said last year’s prices of $4.25 and $5.00 would have been a good starting point.
The decision in Northport to stay in on Thursday was contingent on fishermen in Tignish and Seacow Pond also agreeing to tie up. Fishermen waited around until the word came through that the westernmost ports were also onside.
Fishermen from across the province were making arrangements to gather at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans compound in Charlottetown at 11 a.m. Thursday to stage a demonstration for better prices.
Lewis said fisherman reps would be sitting down with processors Thursday afternoon in a meeting government officials helped arrange.
“We need a price that’s fair for fishermen, and at $2.75 and $3.25 we can’t operate,” Lewis said.