Fishermen in southeastern New Brunswick have rejected a deal offered by the provincial government.
On Tuesday, the Maritime Fisheries Union met with provincial Fisheries Minister Michael Olscamp in hopes of brokering a deal for fishermen. The government made an offer but that was rejected by the union.
Union President Christian Brun said the offer was unacceptable, and the situation is disastrous for fishermen.
"There are going to be some bankruptcies, there are going to be some losses of businesses, some losses of homes and it's going to have an impact — I can't predict, but it's extremely disappointing for fish harvesters," Brun said.
Olscamp said he thought the rejected package was fair but said he would not comment on the specifics of what was offered.
Protests continued today on the Acadian Peninsula, with nearly 200 fishermen having set up a blockade at a processing plant in Neguac.
They say while southeastern processing plants have stopped processing cheap American lobster, northern processors now are.
"All the processors in southern New Brunswick agreed not to do it — process it — where the ones up north are processing it now," Blane Daigle, a fishermen out of St. Louis de Kent, said.
"So we're hoping that by closing this shop, we might be able to get our brothers, the fishermen in Zone 23, to help us close those shops and we'll be more unionized again."
A glut of American lobster has driven the price down to about $2 per pound, a thirty-year low.
Price is just 'too low'
Fisheries consultant Gilles Thériault, who founded the MFU 35 years ago, said that price is too low.
"I haven't seen this is 30 or 40 years, it's the lowest price — so that's really the extreme," he said.
"We have a crisis right now in New Brunswick, in the lobster industry, and we didn't see it coming, or we weren't prepared enough when it arrived."
Thériault says low prices have put lobster fishermen in an emergency situation. He says there is only one way to stop things from getting worse.
"We bailed out the automobile industry, we could have just said, 'Well it's the market conditions there's nothing we can do.' There are short term situations where the state sometimes needs to intervene to, basically, avoid a disaster."
Fishermen are demanding a minimum price of $4 a pound for the lobster they are hoping to catch when the season opens. That was to have been on Thursday, but the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has granted the MFU's request to delay the opening until Monday.
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.
Fishermen are upset with the deal that was reached Friday between the Maritime Fishermen's Union, fish processing plants and New Brunswick's Fisheries Minister Michael Olscamp.
They settled on $2.50 for canners and $3 for markets, and a promise of compensation from the province.
Daigle says that's unacceptable and he wouldn't be able to survive.
Zone 25 fishermen are disappointed with the union, saying it hasn't done enough to help them.
Yesterday, about 150 fishermen visited the homes of some N.B. politicians.
Meanwhile, a P.E.I. lobster plant reached a deal with local fishermen who launched a blockade Tuesday morning over a dispute about processing lobster from Maine.
Island fishermen have agreed that the South Shore Seafood plant can complete the processing of lobster currently in the plant, and the owners have agreed not to bring in any more for now.