Lobster fishermen eye Canada-EU trade deal
Fisheries consultant says Europe is first step to expanding into new markets
New Brunswick fishermen are closely watching negotiations between Canada and the European Union as the two try to hammer out a free trade deal.
Canada and the European Union remain locked in trade negotiations, which were originally supposed to conclude last December.
A potential deal could open new markets for the sale of New Brunswick lobster.
The province exports $455 million worth of lobster every year. Almost all of that is now shipped to the United States.
Fishermen are hoping to crack into the European market, but the European Union charges tariffs on seafood from Canada.
Europe slaps duties from six per cent to 20 per cent on lobster and other seafood coming from Canada.
Robert Rioux, New Brunswick's deputy minister of agriculture, aquaculture and fisheries, said ditching the tariffs would mean more sales for the industry.
"There's a lot of people down there, any additional one is welcome news," he said.
The department's annual report indicated "seafood from Canada would benefit significantly from improved market access to Europe" and the provincial government gave regular updates to the industry on the trade talks.
Lobster accounted for 49.6 per cent of all seafood exports in 2010. The United States received 85.5 per cent of all seafood exports followed by Japan at 5.7 per cent.
Greater access to the European market could benefit different groups in the fisheries sector.
Gilles Theriault, a fisheries consultant, said fishermen and processors would both stand to gain with any new trade deal because New Brunswick exports only a few million dollars worth of seafood to Europe.
"I think there are real opportunities for much more development of not only live lobsters in Europe but also processed lobsters," he said.
Michel Richard, an official with the Maritime Fishermen's Union, said a free trade deal with Europe could prevent a repeat of the low prices last summer because of a glut of lobster on the market.
"We're certain that it's a positive with the large amount of volume that is being landed in lobster we just can't count on just one area," he said.
A glut of cheap lobster from Maine flooded the New Brunswick market in 2012. That cheap lobster drove down the price of lobster to about $2 per pound, a 30-year low.
The fisheries consultant said getting New Brunswick lobster into the European market is only a first step to a longer term plan of expanding into new markets.
Once New Brunswick lobster makes its way into Europe, Theriault said it will turn into a worldwide luxury item.
"We need to introduce lobsters in India, we need to introduce lobsters in China, introduce lobsters in other emerging countries like Brazil." he said.
"We need to sell more in Europe, so there is a worldwide market to be developed."