Lobster levy gets boost at industry conference in Halifax
Provincial politicians in favour, but want support from processors and fishermen
Fishermen and processors attending an industry conference in Halifax appear to be on board with a levy to fund a campaign promoting Maritime lobster.
They are gathering with politicians and experts on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss a series of recommendations made this fall by the Maritime Lobster Panel.
A levy of one cent a pound paid by fishermen and one cent a pound paid by processors had broad support at the conference. The levy is expected to raise about $2.5 million a year.
"I think it’s a good idea,” said Gary Pothier, a fisherman and buyer from Wedgeport, N.S. "If they can suit the buyers, suit the fishermen, have a level, it will work."
Politicians are also on side, but Nova Scotia's fisheries minister wants industry support if new regulations establishing a levy are introduced.
"We’re looking at the possibility of putting the levy on," Keith Colwell said.
The levy also has support from Ron MacKinley, Prince Edward Island's fisheries minister, and Michael Olscamp, New Brunswick’s fisheries minister
"Very important that the levy be introduced because of the potential that it offers in terms of making this a more efficient industry," Olscamp said.
The Maritime Lobster Panel was established to investigate what can be done to counter the low prices that plagued the industry last year. At some points in 2013, lobster was going for as little as $3 a pound.
The panel members came out with several recommendations, including: a levy for a promotional campaign; establishing a minimum price; and creating a lobster institute to provide independent market intelligence on prices.
At the outset of the meeting, all three provincial governments said they found fishing groups in their jurisdictions were unlikely to quickly agree on a price-setting system.
The New Brunswick branch of the Maritime Fishermen's Union, one of the region's largest fishermen's groups, is boycotting the meeting over a disagreement with Ottawa's decision to boost the minimum lobster carapace size by one millimetre rather than two millimetres.
But the organization has passed a resolution saying it favours the levy and is urging the provincial governments to act quickly.
With files from Canadian Press