Abegweit First Nation buying up more lobster
Abegweit First Nation is playing a bigger role than ever in P.E.I.'s lobster fishing industry, buying lobster from both native and non-native fishermen on seven wharves around the Island.
The band has had its own lobster boats for years but Manager Roger Sark told CBC News, the high cost of running its fleet has changed how Red Stone Seafood does business.
"It's probably a natural progression for us. We have approximately nine commercial (boats) we run," Sark said, "So we had high bait costs, repair costs, supply costs, so we looked for a way to make some money on that."
Now, instead of buying bait from others, the native fishing boats now buy their bait from Red Stone Seafood. The revenues from those sales, remain with the band.
Red Stone Seafood then provides skills training and job experience to band members.
Shurman Peters is working in the fishery for the first time.
"My whole family fishes, so might as well get in the industry," Peters said.
James McGrath is now selling Red Stone seafood and he said he likes the price.
"Just paid a little more money. The price is low," he said "We need all the money we can get."
Other Island fishers have started up lobster-buying businesses with mixed results.
Red Stone Seafood is in its third season of operation but Sark said the company is not yet turning a profit due to new equipment purchases.
Red Stone has put $800,000 into new equipment such as trucks, forklifts and scales.
Its payroll now stands at $13,000 a week.
The company sells its lobster to a PEI processing plant but Sark says long term success is not a sure thing.
"Time will tell. It's been a shaky start but we'll hopefully come out on top at the end of the season," he said.
Sark said the company hopes to continue its expansion and buy from more wharves next year.
Red Stone Seafood employs 15 people, up from eight employees last year.
The band also buys snow crab, tuna and other species and sells to a seafood processing plant on the Island.