Labour shortage cause of lobster quotas, says processor group

Many P.E.I. lobster fisherman are finding themselves with unsold lobster after learning some processors can't take all their catch.
King says labour shortage is cause of hold on lobster fishing 3:31

Many P.E.I. lobster fisherman are finding themselves with unsold lobster after learning some processors can't take all their catch.

The catches on P.E.I. had started to increase after a cold slow start to the fishing season.

Dennis King of the P.E.I. Seafood Processors Association said at the same time plants are experiencing labour problems, which has an impact on the amount of lobster that can be processed. 

In P.E.I. he said there was one processor who was not processing Tuesday and some plants with quotas.

"You understand the chronic labour shortage our industry is facing. So now that the daily landings have become as large as they are it's making it difficult to process lobsters throughout the region."

King, who speaks for eight P.E.I. processors, said they could use 400 employees at those plants right now. One plant in particular in the eastern region, is operating at 55 per cent capacity. 

He said some employers have turned to temporary foreign workers in the past. But he says, those workers are a "Band-aid solution to an ongoing problem,"

"The draw out west has taken a lot of employees out there. And we realize there might be a bit of a stigma to working in our processing facilities and it's not a job for everybody."

Fishermen Kent King out of Georgetown said for the first time in his 25-year career, he had to "float" Tuesday's catch. 

Mike McGeoghegan, president of the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association, was surprised to learn Tuesday that some buyers were telling lobster fishermen that plants couldn't process all their lobster. (CBC)
That means keeping the lobster in storage containers in the water, until his processor, Seafood 2000, can buy them from him in a day or two.

"Well they have a big overrun and it's no good buying product I guess if they're gonna die in a truck."

Mike McGeoghegan, president of the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association, said he doesn't see why processors wouldn't have the capacity to accept all the lobster Island fishermen can give them.

"The thing that I don't understand is Saturday, area 33 and 34, their season ended. So that is 1,688 boats that are not fishing right now," said McGeoghegan.

"That's a huge vacuum of lobsters that are not there. It just sounds to me like they're trying to drive the price down."

Prices are currently $3.25 for canners and $4.25 for markets.

Some fishermen worry that is about to drop because of the high supply.