The Lobster Council of Canada is studying a new price-setting model for the popular crustaceans that would help the industry after years of low prices.

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The Lobster Council of Canada is studying a proposal that would develop a new price-setting formula that could help the industry survive. ((CBC))

The lobster council, which is made up of various industry and government players around Atlantic Canada and Quebec, was formed 11 months ago.

Geoff Irvine, the council's executive director, said lobster prices are currently too low because there's too much competition in the marketplace.

He said limiting supply and improving quality would lead to an increase in demand.

Irvine said the lobster industry in Atlantic Canada is too competitive with everybody trying to provide the lowest possible price.

"It's a been a bit of a wild west situation," Irvine said.

"It's unorganized, uncoordinated and not synchronized."

Irvine said the council has commissioned a study by Gardner Pinfold, which suggests setting controls on price and supply of lobsters.

He said the concept is not price fixing, instead he said the council sees the idea as rational marketing.

"It's our duty to work closely together to return better prices to the fishermen, to return better margins to the processors, and shippers," Irvine said.

Irvine said the lobster council will promote its ideas among its members this winter.

Better marketing needed

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The lobster council wants to pitch its product to new markets.

Irvine said the harvesters and processors have to change the way they do business if the industry is going to survive.

The council's director said Canadian lobster should be as well known and as lucrative as Kobe beef from Japan or Alaskan king crab.

"What we want to do is target some higher quality buyers and we want to sell more lobster to people who appreciate the quality and will pay more for it," Irvine said.

The council hopes to eventually get the provincial and federal governments to help the lobster industry meet its challenges.

The lobster council has a two-year budget of $370,000, which is being paid by the four Atlantic provinces, the government of Quebec, and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Lobster fishermen were hit last season with some of the lowest prices in 20 years, with some people forced to sell their product for less than $3 a pound.

Those low prices sparked protests from many Maritime lobster fishermen and forced the federal government to unveil a new $65-million plan to help Atlantic Canadian fishermen, with $15 million of that fund earmarked specifically for the lobster industry.