Fishermen say they need prices of $4.50 to $5 to survive
© Darrell Cole – Amherst Daily News
Prince Edward Island Fisheries Minister Ron MacKinley (left) and New Brunswick Fisheries Minister Mike Olscamp look on as Nova Scotia’s minister Sterling Belliveau talks to the media after a meeting in Amherst on Wednesday. The ministers agreed to appoint a panel to examine issues facing the lobster industry.
AMHERST – The Maritimes three fisheries ministers have agreed to appoint an independent panel to examine factors affecting lobster prices in the region and work collectively on marketing initiatives.
The panel will consider ways to ensure the best return to all industry players and communities, recognizing the uniqueness of the various fishing areas in the region and of the live and processed products produced.
“The most we can do is show we are behind our industry. The co-operation we’ve shown here with the three provinces shows we care. We care about our lobster industry and we’re going to make sure it’s there for future generations,” Nova Scotia Fisheries Minister Sterling Belliveau said after a meeting with his provincial counterparts Ron MacKinley of Prince Edward Island and Mike Olscamp of New Brunswick. “No one believes there’s a simple solution that’s going to happen with a snap of the fingers. These are complex issues, but we’ll put the right people at the helm and come up with something that’s workable.”
Belliveau said senior staff from each province will take the next two weeks to assemble the panel that will address the issues facing the lobster industry across Atlantic Canada.
The ministers will also reach out to Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec and Maine and the three ministers agreed the federal government has a key role to play in the management of the fishery and the development of international markets.
Fishermen across the region returned to the water on Tuesday after refusing to land catches for several days in protest of low prices. Fishermen say they need prices similar to last year, when lobster were going from $4.50 to $5 a pound.
Belliveau said the panel will look a number of factors including allegations of price-fixing and the possibility of setting prices before fishermen set their traps at the start of the season.
“It’s an issue that has been raised a number of times since I’ve been in office and it’s a question this panel will address. I know that fishermen can literally go out and fish for a week and not have a sale price on the day’s catch,” Belliveau said. “It’s something that has to be addressed.”
P.E.I. Fisheries Minister Ron MacKinley said his government has already started to look at the problem with the hiring of former auditor general Colin Younker.
“This panel will look at all three Maritime provinces and we won’t know what the answer is until it’s completed. If we knew the answers we wouldn’t need this panel,” MacKinley said. “We want to make sure there is a fishery for the future and that processors and the people who work there have jobs too. It’s the second most important industry on the Island.”
On Monday, P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz announced the appointment of Younker to look at the state of the lobster industry there. Younker’s review will look at the price structure, market conditions and the volumes of landings. MacKinley said that review will continue at the same time as the regional study.
New Brunswick’s Fisheries Minister Mike Olscamp said he’s optimistic a solution can be found.
“Will it be a final solution? We don’t know Markets are very volatile and there has to be flexibility, but all of us share the opinion we don’t want to have to address this again at this time next year,” Olscamp said.