Maritime lobster industry hurt by P.E.I. prices: fishermen

Frustrated P.E.I. lobster fishermen say the low price set for Island lobster is dragging down prices across the Maritimes.

Lobster processors on P.E.I. have set the price at $3.75 for canners, $4.25 for market lobster

At the beginning of the season, prices were about $1 per pound more in Nova Scotia.

Frustrated P.E.I. lobster fishermen say the low price set for Island lobster is dragging down prices across the Maritimes.

Lobster processors on P.E.I. have set the price at $3.75 for canners and $4.25 for market lobsters.

That's an increase of about 30 per cent over last year, but fishermen say they can't make a living at that price. 

"Why are we giving our lobsters away? We’ve got the best lobsters in the world and we're selling them for bargain basement prices,” said Souris fisherman Shane Clinton.

At the beginning of the season, prices were about $1 a pound more in Nova Scotia.

“We've been hearing from the Nova Scotia buyers and fishermen over there that P.E.I. processors are undercutting everybody in the world market and their prices are going down. And Nova Scotia fishermen today, their prices are down, even with us," said Clinton.

"I don't know why we don't have a Maritime price. It should be all the same," said Souris fisherman John MacPhee.

Last year fishermen tied up their boats for days, refusing to empty their traps in protest of shore prices of $3 a pound. The low price was blamed, in part, on a glut of lobster on the market.

"We're not coming in with boat loads of lobster, so I’d love to know what the excuse is this year. The demand is there but the supply definitely is not," said North Lake fisherman J.J. Chaisson.

Nova Scotia buyer Brian Newell, with RBN Fisheries Ltd., said a lot of lobster is now coming on to the market and that's also driving down prices.

“There are thousands of vessels fishing, and also in Maine, all the boats are fishing. The price in Maine is $4.50 a pound to the boats, [and that’s the same for fishermen on] Grand Manan, Deer Island, Madeleine Islands and Newfoundland,” he said.

Fisheries Critic Colin LaVie is calling on Fisheries Minister Ron MacKinley to do something.

"Fishermen are frustrated, and they want a fair price [like the rest of] the Maritimes. He did the panel, and fishermen thought there would be a Maritime price," said LaVie.

But MacKinley said Nova Scotia caters to a different market. 

“Those lobsters are going to a live market ... where our lobster here, the vast majority goes to processing. So that’s one of the main reasons right there, live versus processing," he said.

But that doesn't satisfy some P.E.I. fishermen.

“He’s a disgrace to the fishermen of P.E.I. He does nothing for us, absolutely nothing," said MacPhee.

Fisheries ministers in the three Maritime provinces are hoping to set a Maritimes-wide lobster price in advance of the 2015 season. That was one of the recommendations contained in the Maritime Lobster Panel report issued in November 2013.

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