Lobster fishermen cry foul over low prices
North Shore lobster fishermen facing skyrocketing expenses are disgusted by the low prices they are receiving for their daily catch.
This week, some buyers made an unprecedented move to pay the same amount, $5 per pound, for both the smaller canner-sized lobsters and the larger market-sized lobsters.
"This is the first time I can remember that happening," said Ronnie Heighton, chairman of the Northumberland Fisherman's Association.
The Northumberland Strait is the only part of the province where a canner lobster fishing season is permitted with minimum body shell sizes range from 70 millimeters to 76 mm.
Normally there is about a $1 price difference per pound between canner and market lobsters, the later accounts for about 75 per cent of the daily catch.
Nap LeBlanc, owner of the seafood processing company Sea Deli 1996 Ltd., said the price for both sizes may be on par now because market-sized lobsters are cheaper to process and the demand for smaller whole-cooked lobsters has increased.
"What we are seeing this year, in my view, the market lobsters have hit a wall because of the American dollar," said LeBlanc.
"There are fewer canners available because the size has increased and there are some markets that want a smaller sized lobster."
He said logically, because canners require more work to process, if they are marketed as whole-cooked their value increases.
He said processing costs are, "going through the roof. Heating oil to make steam to cook the lobsters is over $1 a litre, labour costs are increasing."
An average daily catch this season in the western portion of the strait has been between 80 to 110 pounds of lobster, similar to the previous year.
Wallace Allen, chairman of the Gulf Nova Scotia Fisherman's Coalition said fishermen loose bargaining power when catches are so low, and they are left at the mercy of buyers setting the price.
"We're receiving a price we would have received 20 years ago," said Allen.
"The price is the killer. We're rendered powerless because we don't have the large landings to bring new buyers in or to bargain with them. It's really sad."
He expects fishermen's organizations will meet during the off-season to discuss many of the issues they are facing in the market place today.
Six days of bitter-cold northeast winds kept a number of boats docked during the past week. With catches so low, to save on bait and fuel, some fishermen are checking traps every other day.