Maritime fishermen tie up boats, protest low lobster prices
Daniel Reid, CTVNews.ca
Published Friday, May 10, 2013 9:52AM EDT
Lobster lovers, take off your bibs. Canada’s lobster supply could be disrupted as fishermen from two of Canada’s top lobster producing provinces dock their boats in protest of low market prices.
About 1,000 fishermen rallied in Charlottetown on Thursday, refusing to fish until processors offer them a better price for their catch.
“There’s more boats tying up on the main land all the time,” Mike McGeoghegan, president of the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association, told CTV’s Canada AM on Friday. “It’s just starting to snowball right now.”
The Canadian Press reports that fishermen from Nova Scotia joined protests at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans office in Charlottetown on Thursday.
Protesters also set up blockades at ports with processing plants in P.E.I., according to the Canadian Press.
In a show of support, fishermen along the eastern part of the Northumberland Strait in Nova Scotia have also docked their boats and will only sell directly to customers on Saturday.
In P.E.I, market-sized lobsters sell for as little as $2.75 a pound to wholesale buyers. It’s a different story on the mainland, where fishermen are being offered more than $4 a pound.
McGeoghegan can’t explain the price disparity. Just six years ago, lobster sold for about $5 a pound in P.E.I., he said. And prices have just kept getting “gradually worse” since then.
Today, fishermen would be happy to make even $4.75 a pound, McGeoghegan said.
“They’re saying that’s the market conditions right now,” he said. “That’s the thing about this (that is a) mystery. They’re saying market conditions. Well, who’s controlling the market because we don’t understand who’s doing this?”
It doesn’t make sense, says McGeoghegan, since Canada’s lobster industry is worth over $1 billion.
“There’s a billion dollars here changing hands for lobster. Obviously someone is making some money someplace.”
Last year prices briefly went up giving those in the industry a “glimmer of hope.”
“We were expecting a good price but obviously that didn’t happen,” McGeoghegan said.
Considering the short two month lobster season in the Maritimes, fishermen simply can’t make a living at that price, McGeoghegan said.
“Days are critical when you’re a fisherman,” he said, explaining that the protest is costing them $750,000 a day.
If it keeps up, he expects they’ll lose $38 million on the season.
For the sake of fishermen and anyone planning to take mom out for a lobster dinner this weekend, McGeoghegan hopes the protest doesn’t last much longer.
Fishermen are expected to meet with processors today to discuss the issue.
“We told them we would meet them anyplace, anywhere in the Maritimes that they choose,” McGeoghegan said.
“We’re fishermen, (it’s) what we do. Nobody wants to be tied up to the wharf.”