Lobster fishermen block $200K lobster shipment

Fishermen on P.E.I. blocked a $200,000 lobster shipment from leaving the Island Saturday, upset over what fishermen across the Maritimes are calling unfairly low lobster prices.

Maritime fishermen say rising fuel, bait costs make harvesting unprofitable

Boats tied up on Caribou Wharf in Pictou County on Thursday. (Stephen Puddicombe/CBC)

Fishermen on P.E.I. blocked a $200,000 lobster shipment from leaving the Island Saturday, upset over what Maritime fishermen are calling unfairly low lobster prices.

Protests continue across the Maritimes as many lobster fishermen refuse to fish until lobster brokers agree to pay a higher price, which they say they deserve.

As a result, many fishing boats remain tied up at wharves in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and P.E.I.

On Friday Marilyn Clark, director of the Cape Dauphin Fishermen's Cooperative representing 82 lobster boats on the Magdalen Islands, sold the $200,000 shipment. It was shipped to Souris, P.E.I. on Saturday, destined for the U.S.

Clark happened to be in Souris when the ferry arrived. She said she watched fishermen surround the truck, preventing it from moving.

"Well, I was shocked because we didn't have any word of warning. I know that the processing sector has been — sure their lobsters have been getting a terrible price but I was shocked that there was no word of warning or nobody informed us that this could happen, it just happened," she said.

Clark said the shipment is intended for the U.S.

She said she understands why fishermen are angry, but said she just wishes she had warning before making the ferry trip.

The price that brokers are willing to pay varies across all three provinces but ranges between $2.75 and $3.75 per pound for canner lobster, and between $3.25 and $4 per pound for market-sized.

Many fishermen say that with the rising costs of fuel and bait, settling for anything less than $5 per pound is unreasonable.

Lobster is Canada's most valuable seafood exports, with 78 per cent of lobster caught destined for markets in the U.S.

According to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, there are about 10,000 licensed harvesters in Canada who land, on average, 50,000 to 55,000 tonnes every year, adding hundreds of millions of dollars to the Canadian economy.

P.E.I. fishermen say injunctions won't stop protests

Lobster prices continue to cause tension on P.E.I. after two fish processing plants filed injunctions this week against fishermen who had set up blockades in front of the plants.

Mike McGeoghegan, the president of the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association, told CBC News that negotiations with processors to increase the price of lobster have failed.

Boats were moved in to strengthen the blockade of the lobster processing plant in Georgetown Friday morning. (John Jeffery/CBC)

About 100 fishermen continued their protest in front of the Beach Point processing plant in eastern P.E.I. on Saturday — and they said they’re not going anywhere.

Some fishermen said they’ve heard two trucks are on the way to the plant. RCMP are on the scene.

Protesting fishermen said they’re not going to move out of the way and will continue their protest.

On Thursday, the Beach Point Processing Company filed an injunction against lobster fishermen who had blockaded the plant, placing boats blocking the access road. On Friday, Seafood 2000 Ltd. in Georgetown, P.E.I. filed a second injunction against fishermen there who had set up blockades outside that plant.

Some N.B. fishermen opt to continue fishing, despite low prices

Similar situations are playing out in New Brunswick where Shediac RCMP continue to monitor a situation at the wharf.

In eastern New Brunswick, lobster fishermen tied up their boats for a fourth day on Saturday to protest the low prices they are receiving for their catch.

Current wholesale lobster prices

 Prince Edward Island      New Brunswick                Nova Scotia                 
Price for canners $2.75 - $3.75 $3 $3.75
Price for market lobster$3.25 - $3.50$3.50$4

A large crowd of lobster fishermen from Escuminac, Baie St-Anne and Pointe Sapin agreed at a meeting Friday night to continue the protest to get better prices.

Lobster season started nearly two weeks ago. But fishermen found out three days ago their catches will net them at least $1 per pound less than last year.

Serge Sippley, who represents protesting fishermen in southeastern New Brunswick, said fishing continues further up the coast in Tabusintac and Miscou. He said a lack of solidarity is hurting the protesters’ cause.

"So by them still fishing, it contradicts everything," he said.

Sippley said protesting fishermen in New Brunswick are being supported by harvesters in other provinces fighting for a fair price.

"It seems like they don't even want it. At the end of the day we're the backbone of the fishery. If you don't have fishermen, you don't have fish. And if [brokers] don't need our fish, then what the hell are we fishing for?"

Sippley said harvesters from the protesting communities in New Brunswick will meet again Monday. At that time they may decide to return to the water, he said.

Another blockade in Cape Breton

In Cheticamp, Cape Breton, about 50 fishermen blocked trucks loaded with snow crab from leaving the wharf Saturday afternoon.

Myles Miller, one of the protesting fishermen, said the decision to set up the blockade was spontaneous.

"The fishermen started calling each other and we just gathered and we figured it would be a good idea to do it and we did it and the RCMP are here. Like I say, there’s going to be no violence or nothing, just a peaceful blockade," he said.

Miller said the men will probably let the shipment through sometime Saturday evening, after they have made their point.

The lobster season in Cape Breton’s Area 27, from Cape North to Fourchu, opened Saturday. But most fishermen opted to stay in port.

Marlene Brogan, a lobster buyer who runs Ballast Ground Fisheries in North Sydney, says she can understand why fishermen are angry over the low price of lobster.

"That’s a very true statement — with the price of fuel and bait and they have their workers on board — they can’t make a living with less than $5 per pound," she said.