While prices remain low, lobster fishermen received some good news Thursday as buyers lifted quotas on how much of their product they would purchase per boat.
For much of this week, many processors were buying no more than 500 pounds (227 kg) of lobster a day from any fisherman, but that quota was lifted Thursday. Some processors had imposed the limit because they were only buying what they could sell immediately.
Earlier in the week some lobster buyers told fishermen they weren't buying at all, and boats were tied up. The P.E.I. Fishermen's Association says there were a few boats tied up Thursday, but only because of bad weather. They say fishermen have been told things look good for Friday.
The federal deputy minister of fisheries is on P.E.I. Thursday meeting with provincial politicians, processors and fishermen to discuss the problems in the industry, which include the lowest prices in decades, as well as the unprecedented buying quotas.
Fisheries Minister Gail Shea said earlier this week she is interested in helping but ruled out subsidizing prices or having the government buy excess lobster.
While the quota has been lifted, there is no guarantee it won't return. Olin Greggan, executive director of the P.E.I. Seafood Processors Association, said the way the industry works has changed radically since last year.
"So, one of the things that we're looking at that's really different in 2009 is that we don't process for inventory any more," said Greggan.
"We process for the market and we process for orders, and that is very much different than the way the industry has usually unfolded through the months of May and June."
In January, seafood processors on P.E.I. found themselves still holding $30 million worth of frozen lobster, and that has contributed to low prices as the season got underway last week. Greggan said his group is working to help solve the crisis in the industry. He said he's been on two or three conference calls a day for the past few days, along with the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association and the provincial and federal governments.