New Brunswick

Cheap U.S. lobster spark fishermen's anger

New Brunswick lobster fishermen are angry several fish processing plants have purchased cheap American lobster from Maine.

Fishermen worried processing plants may refuse to buy local

Cheap Maine lobster has New Brunswick fishermen concerned about their own product. (Marc Genuist/CBC)

New Brunswick lobster fishermen are angry several fish processing plants have told them their lobster isn't wanted because they have purchased cheap American lobster from Maine instead.

Bargain-priced lobster from Maine has fishermen concerned there may be less demand for their own product when the fall season opens in zone 25 in mid-August.

At the moment, U.S. lobster is selling for about $2 per pound — a price, New Brunswick fishermen say, they cannot match.

The Maine lobsters were harvested earlier than usual this year.

About 150 fishermen from Rivière du Cap, Richibuctou, Kouchibouguac, Bouctouche and Shediac drove to the community centre in Bouctouche to discuss their options. 

The Maritime Fishermen's Union called the meeting over concerns their season may be delayed. 

Many told CBC News the meeting was unsatisfactory.

They say processors have told them they can't buy the more expensive local lobster, and it's been suggested New Brunswick fishermen shorten their season by three weeks.

The season lasts 10 weeks and fishermen say they refuse to delay their fishing season.

After the meeting, the fishermen headed to a processing plant in Bedec, furious the plant is processing American lobster.

They yelled at the plant's owner, questioning why he'd purchase lobster from outside Atlantic Canada. Some fishermen reportedly turned off the refrigeration units holding the lobster.

Fishermen are also upset at the union for not taking steps earlier to prevent the plants from buying lobster elsewhere.

The union says it will plead for help from the province.

Over the last four years, the lobster industry has taken a beating from distressed economies in Europe and the United States. As a result, low prices have been a source of frustration for lobster fishermen.

According to its website, the Maritime Fishermen's Union represents more than 1,300 owner-operator fish harvesters with small businesses actively fishing in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.