P.E.I. lobster fishermen, who started the fall season last weekend, are dreading a replay of a familiar story, low prices at the wharf that make it impossible to make a living.
While they have been fishing almost a week, processors have not yet announced a price for what they have been collecting at the wharf. Prices in New Brunswick are $ 2.50 a pound for canners and $3.00 a pound for markets, $0.60 less than in that province last fall.
A spokesperson for Royal Star Foods in Tignish, one of the largest lobster processors on the Island, said it looks like the price for canners will be the same on P.E.I., and $2.75 for markets.
Those prices are a little lower than what fishermen got in the spring season, and below the cost of bringing the lobster to the wharf, say fishermen.
"Don't know if we can survive. We just have to work what we can," said fisherman Dwayne Handrahan.
With strong winds blowing at Miminegash Harbour Thursday, many boats there did not go out, but it was only partly because of the rough weather.
"It's too windy and a few boats went out but for what we're getting for the price it's just not going to cut the mustard," said fisherman Mark MacRae.
Looking for solutions
Catches were good in the first week, but fishermen say they're starting to taper off. But strong catches are part of the problem. Catches have been good all down the Eastern Seaboard, and supply and demand dictate price.
'They're moving the product, so why would you want to go with a quota?' — fisherman Mark MacRae
Fisheries Minister Ron MacKinley believes he has solutions to the problem.
"Been saying that all along we've got to find new markets," MacKinley said.
MacKinley would also like to see holding facilities built, so fishermen could wait for better prices before selling their catch.
Some fishermen are talking about boat quotas, limiting how many pounds individual fishermen can land, but MacRae doesn't agree with that.
"They're moving the product, so why would you want to go with a quota?" he said.
"As far as markets, we have a niche market here on the Island with our canner market, our canner industry, and there's no other where in the world where you can get canners other than the Maritimes."
Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea, who is from western P.E.I., is expected next week to discuss the problem of ongoing low lobster prices and what needs to be done.