Lobster season ends with low prices

Lobster fishermen are pulling up their traps at the end of a season marked with very low prices.

Many fishermen are finding it increasingly harder to pay their bills

The fall lobster season is coming to a close Saturday.

But P.E.I. lobster fishermen say the price is dismal, the worst it's been in five years.

"With the price it is, it doesn't pay you to fish," said James Boulter. "We were expecting more, but we didn't get it."

Boulter pulled up his last 75 traps Friday. He's only one of two boats left fishing in Victoria–By–The–Sea. He doesn't know how he'll return next season, with prices like $2.50 for canner lobsters and $2.75 for market lobsters this year.

In Borden, there are only three boats left fishing lobster. Just a few years ago there were seven.

"One word sums it up — terrible," said Stephen Hunter. "They need to fix the price now, because it's going to drive everybody out of business."

For many fishermen it is becoming tougher to pay the bills each year.

"If you don't have enough money coming through the door, you can't pay your bills, loan payments, and whatever else, run your household," said Ian MacPherson, president of the P.E.I. Fisherman's Association.

MacPherson said these are the worst lobster prices they've seen in five years. The cause is too much lobster.

"With most things, if you get an increase in supply then the price starts to drop," said MacPherson, "And that's been part of the problem."

That has meant some fishermen tying up their boats early, before the end of the season.

"Some of the fellas that we fish amongst over in Cape Tormentine (N.B.) and places like that, a lot of them quit weeks ago," said Hunter.

The lobster catch was up in many areas around the Island, which MacPherson said likely encouraged some fishermen to stick it out. There has been talk amongst fishermen about moving the fishing season, or making it shorter.

Provincial Fisheries Minister Ron MacKinley said he'll talk to his federal counterpart about changing the fishing season when they meet in two weeks. But he said there would have to be considerable scientific research done before anything would be changed.

The Lobster Council of Canada recently announced it is coming up with a standard quality system to help increase lobster prices through better marketing.

"We need to have a system so that the consumer can differentiate if some people may be more attracted to certain price points, so we want to make that more available," said MacPherson. "Just like they do in the beef industry."

A new advisory council of fisherman from P.E.I., Nova Scotia and New Brunswick will be meeting next month to discuss their options.