Lobster protest continues over low prices
Some lobster fishermen are feeling pressure to get back on the water
Lobster fishermen in eastern New Brunswick tied up their boats for a third day on Friday to protest the low prices they are receiving for their catch.
A large crowd of lobster fishermen from Escuminac, Baie St-Anne and Pointe Sapin agreed on Thursday to continue the protest to get better prices.
About 100 of them descended upon the Shediac office of lobster buyer Orion on Friday morning, under the watch of about a dozen RCMP officers.
Police escorted some of the fishermen inside.
Lobster season started nearly two weeks ago. But fishermen found out two days ago their catches will net them at least $1 per pound less than last year.
Market lobsters are now valued at $3.50 per pound and canners are $3 per pound.
Too much being harvested
Orion officials said they can't pay any more. Too much lobster is being harvested from across the Maritimes and Maine, they said.
The broker did guarantee fishermen prices won't go any lower, but suggested if too much volume comes in, the company might have to cap the amount it buys.
The fishermen say they feel backed into a corner and contend the provincial government has to step in to help regulate better.
There is too much uncertainty in market, they said, and acting as mediator when they have problems is not a solution.
Minister willing to mediate
Fisheries Minister Mike Olscamp said he intends to help get lobster boats back on the water, as soon as possible.
"I would mediate, certainly, I think that's the role I have to play. I certainly don't want this to drag out," Olscamp said.
"I look back at last year, but we've gone out of our way, we've done everything, the department and I have worked so hard to see if we could avoid this situation and the situation is predicated by prices, bottom line, which I have no control over."
In 2012, lobster fishermen were protesting low prices and eventually a deal was struck to top up prices for their lobster catch.
Meanwhile, the fishermen say they will decide on a daily basis whether to stay off the water.
They plan to vote again on Friday night in Miramichi.
Fisherman face pressure to break ranks
Some fishermen are feeling pressure to break ranks and return to fishing, despite the protest.
Lynn Gregan is one of a handful of fishermen who say they cannot afford to stay off the water even though the lobster prices are so low.
"At $3 a pound it’s tough going but at three days down, they got to bring in the resource, it's a natural resource that we need to harvest and we only get so many days to do it," Gregan said.
Lobster fishermen from Tabusintac north to Dalhousie also decided to fish on Friday.
Serge Shipley, one of the protesting fishermen, said it’s difficult to see some of his peers decide head out onto the water while others are trying to hold out for a better price.
"Well it's not too nice really because we are all in the same hole," he said.
"Everybody should stick together as fishermen, it's unfortunate. But there are meetings going on after this to talk to them guys to see what their point of view will be after today."
Shipley puts the blame for the low prices squarely on one group.
"It’s not the processors’ fault, they're not making money, the fishermen are not making money. It’s the brokers that are making all the money," he said.