Lobster price squabbles hurt industry, expert says

Squabbles over the price of lobster are giving the industry a bad name, according to the executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada.

Fishermen, processors need to work together, says head of Lobster Council of Canada

Squabbles over the price of lobster are giving the industry a bad name, according to the executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada.

Geoff Irvine is working on ways to better market Canadian lobster and says the highly publicized battle over pricing between fishermen and processors doesn't help.

"I spend every day thinking about that. Again, with organization, with being professional, with working together, I think that will improve, and it is improving," he said.

Lobster fishermen in New Brunswick say they are receiving 25 cents a pound less than their counterparts from Prince Edward Island.

The processors, meanwhile, say they can't afford to pay more than $3.50 to $4 a pound.

Irvine says better marketing would drive up demand and mean bigger profits for both fishermen and processors.

Canada's seafood marketing pales in comparison to other countries, he said.

"Two of the greatest examples in fish world: the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, which invests $15 million a year, has put Alaska at the top of the list when people choose seafood. Likewise with Norway, they invest $75- or $80 million a year, around the world, they have 12 offices, and Norweigan salmon and cod, all top of mind for people," said Irvine.

"We can do that for Canadian lobster and we frankly should be doing the same for all Canadian seafood."

Fishermen and processors agree they need to improve the marketing of lobster, said Irvine.

Both sides support a proposal to pay one cent per pound to the lobster council in order to market Canadian lobster, he said.

Last May, lobster fishermen in eastern New Brunswick tied up their boats for several days and refused to fish in protest of the prices they were receiving for their catch.

In 2012, lobster fishermen were protesting low prices and eventually a deal was struck to top up prices for their lobster catch.