Fishermen's association denies counteroffer to come
Promised meeting Friday over glut of cheap U.S. lobster
The head of the Maritime Fisheries Union has denied the union was making a counter offer to the government's undisclosed offer that was rejected on Tuesday.
But, lobster fishermen who are upset about the glut of cheap American lobster at New Brunswick processing plants have secured a meeting with the federal fisheries minister.
About 100 fishermen gathered outside the Fredericton riding office of federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Keith Ashfield on Wednesday at about 10:30 a.m. as RCMP officers looked on.
Ashfield is currently in Ottawa, but his assistant invited about four or five representatives of the protestors inside for a meeting.
A few minutes later, about three of the fishermen tossed some large metal traps into the reception area of Ashfield's office.
Within an hour, the fishermen were promised a Friday meeting with Ashfield and removed their traps.
They then moved their protest to the provincial legislature, some of them hanging back a bit in the shade of nearby trees.
Fisherman Maurice Martin hopes talks with Ashfield will eventually lead to a solution.
"We're talking. It's going. Baby steps. It's going," Martin said.
"They're starting to understand the problems the fishermen are going through," he said.
The fishermen, who have been protesting at processing plants across the province for about a week, say a glut of cheap lobster from Maine has flooded the market, driving the price down to a 30-year low of about $2 per pound.
Provincial Fisheries Minister Michael Olscamp had promised to provide compensation. But the Maritime Fisheries Union rejected an undisclosed offer by the provincial government on Tuesday and the minister has since closed the door on financial compensation.
Processors say they could pay fishermen $2.50 per pound for canners and $3 for market lobster, but the fishermen say they need at least $4 to survive.
They say their season is in danger because of the cheap prices. The season, scheduled to begin on the Northumberland Strait on Thursday, has been delayed until Monday.
"We want answers. We need answers," said fisherman Blaine Daigle.
Meanwhile, many processing plants sit idle, having decided for now that cheap Maine lobster isn't worth the trouble.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is urging the New Brunswick government not to bail out lobster fishermen.
Atlantic director Kevin Lacey says the government should not subsidize the industry. It would set a bad precedent, he said.
On Tuesday nearly 200 fishermen set up a blockade at a processing plant in Neguac, on the Acadian Peninsula.
They say while southeastern processing plants have stopped processing cheap American lobster, northern processors now are.
Last week, fishermen set up blockades and closed several fish processing plants in the southeast, in some cases tractor trailer loads of Maine lobster couldn't unload and had to turn around.