Steve Sharratt - TC Media
© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
More than 700 lobster fishermen rallied in front of the DFO offices in Charlottetown earlier this month to protest the low proces they are receiving for their catch.
CHARLOTTETOWN - One week after the Maritime lobster industry was almost shut down in a historic and massive Atlantic protest, Island fishermen are landing some staggering numbers and being paid the exact same price.
The boat tie-up, to protest low prices, grew to significant support 10 days ago when Island fishermen refused to fish over the Mother's Day weekend and were joined by Maritime counterparts. But since the protest effort tumbled like dominoes last Wednesday, little has changed.
The price is still $2.75 and $3.25, or $3 and $3.50 a pound, depending on the plant. And landings have been so strong, up to 2,000 to 2,500 pounds daily in some areas, processors are initiating boat quotas, which they say will provide a more orderly flow of production.
Some boats have been reduced to landing only 500 to 750 pounds a day in plants at both ends of the province as the pressure of lack of processing capabilities continues.
“When they all went back fishing, the fishermen weren’t too happy about the price,’’ said one independent buyer on an eastern wharf this week. “But there’s been no change in price and it’s a dream to think otherwise.”
But processors, who met with fishermen to avert the protest, remain steadfast they can’t pay more for the enormous amount of lobster landed within an eight-week period. And with fewer processing plants on P.E.I., there’s less and less competition.
“The last number of years there has been less capacity in the industry, especially here on P.E.I. with plant closures and such,” P.E.I. Seafood Processors Association spokesman Jeff Malloy told media, referring to closures of plants like Ocean Choice in Souris and Mariner in Montague.
Fortune fisherman Edwin McKie said there’s been lots of talk about marketing lobsters on a more global level, but those goals have yielded few results as of yet.
“Sending (Fisheries Minister) Ron McKinley to China is not the way to go,’’ he said. “Most seafood industries (like mussels) hire marketing teams in the country they are targeting because the trends and buying decisions are already known.”
The lobster protest was the biggest fight in the industry in 75 years when fishermen started Station No. 4 Fishermen’s Union in Flat River in 1937. The idea was to create fair prices, since the only buyer was Maritime Packers. The fishermen built floats in local harbours where lobster could be held, graded and packed into crates and shipped to Boston. That doubled the price, but a scarcity of lobster on the southside forced the operation to close in 1974.