Lobster fishermen, union split makes deal difficult
Fisheries minister doesn't know who to negotiate with
New Brunswick's fisheries minister says it's becoming more difficult to know who to negotiate with in the ongoing lobster crisis.
Last week, the Maritime Fishermen’s Union asked its members to stay calm and to stop blockading processing plants that were trying to buy cheap U.S. lobster.
But the protests continued. On Wednesday, about 200 fishermen rallied in Fredericton, demanding government action on low prices caused by a glut of lobster from Maine.
"I can only encourage them to come together," Fisheries Minister Michael Olscamp told CBC News.
"That's not been an easy task to this point. I've tried," he said.
The division makes it harder for Olscamp to negotiate a deal because it's not clear who speaks for the fishermen and who's in a position to negotiate on their behalf.
Fisherman Yves Marin contends the union leadership is out of touch with the fishermen.
"We don't see them anywhere where we're going."
Fellow fisherman Maurice Martin, who helped organize Wednesday’s protests at the riding office of federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Keith Ashfield and the legislature, agrees.
"The MFU hasn't been getting fishermen’s message to the government", Martin said.
Ashfield's assistant promised protestors a meeting with the federal minister on Friday. It's unclear who Ashfield will meet with.
Fishermen say the market glut has driven the price of lobster down to about $2 per pound, a 30-year low.
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.