Judge grants injunction in lobster crisis
Fishermen ordered to stay away from fish processing plants for 10 days
A New Brunswick Court of Queen's Bench judge has granted a 10-day injunction to prevent lobster fishermen from blocking fish processing plants across the province in protest of a glut of cheap U.S. lobster.
Nine fish processing plants in southeastern New Brunswick were seeking the injunction.
They filed a court action against the Maritime Fishermen's Union and "persons unknown" after days of protests by fishermen, who have been blocking truckloads of cheap American lobster from being processed.
Ronald LeBlanc, the lawyer representing the processing plants, says over the past week, fishermen have been threatening to burn people's homes and some plants.
LeBlanc says since the protests began, 1,800 workers have been idle and the plants have been losing $1.5 million per day as a result.
The fishermen say the market glut has driven the price down to about $2 per pound which is a 30-year low. They say they need at least $4 to survive.
Justice George Rideout issued the order on Thursday afternoon to keep the protests civil.
Rideout said he wanted to ensure fishermen are still able to voice their concerns. Under the injunction, only six people can protest at a time and they must stay 200 feet away from the plants.
The injunction lasts 10 days, after that the processors can reapply.
Processors Cooperative des Pêcheurs de la Baie Ste. Anne, Cape Bald Packers, Captain Dan's Inc., Crown Seafood Ltd., and Shediac Lobster Shop et al are the complainants named in the court documents.
The lobster season on the Northumberland Strait, which was scheduled to begin Thursday, has been delayed by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans until Monday at the request of the fishermen.
They are expected to meet with the federal and provincial fisheries ministers on Friday.
Plant employees, like Michael Landry, don't know what to expect when they head back to work.
"The tactics (the fishermen) are using aren't really just. I've heard of them trying to steal a truck, sabotaging our refrigerator units. They show a lot of hostility and even when we talk to them calmly they lash out," Landry said.
"Naturally we're going to be intimidated, but we want to work, and I'm pretty sure no one's going to not go."
Plant employee Andrew Pollock said the work stoppage is taking a financial toll.
"That means late payments on my house, late payments on bills. I have to borrow money from family members just to feed ourselves and I have a lot of animals to feed as well. It's not a good spot for anyone."
LeBlanc says everyone is suffering because of the actions of the minority.
"These demonstrations and these threats are not from every fishermen. Most of the fishermen out there are very good people, hard workers, they may have some grievances. The actions of the few unfortunately reflect on them all," he said.