New Brunswick

Lobster fishermen angry about low prices refuse to fish

About 250 southeastern New Brunswick lobster fishermen gathered in Shediac on Thursday and refused to fish after a steep decline in prices

With higher expenses because of inflation, fishermen say they can't make money on lobster catch

Lobster fishermen refused to fish this morning because current prices don't make it worth their while. (Nicolas Steinbach/ Radio-Canada)

About 250 southeastern New Brunswick lobster fishermen gathered outside the new Homarus Centre in Shediac on Thursday after refusing to fish.

The fishermen say prices are 40 per cent lower than last year, when they were getting $7 for a pound of lobster.

This season, they said, they're getting $4.50 to $5 a pound, which they say isn't profitable with the higher expenses they've faced because of inflation.

Luc LeBlanc, fishing adviser at the Maritime Fishermen's Union, confirmed to Radio-Canada that a majority of lobster fishermen in Zone 25, but not all, did not go out fishing Thursday morning.

This area includes fishers from southeastern New Brunswick and southwestern Prince Edward Island.

Luc Leblanc, the spokesperson from the Maritime Fishermen's Union said the gathering was peaceful.

"[The fishermen] just wanted to let their feelings known and to make a little bit of a splash, which is what they did." 

Some fishermen told Radio-Canada the fishing stoppage could last until Monday.

Others said that if prices don't go up, they could haul up their traps and stop fishing for the rest of the season, which started last Thursday.

Might raise traps

Marc Daigle, a fisherman in the zone, said difficulties of the industry can reverberate in communities all over the region. 

"It has a big impact on everything," he said in French. "There is an impact on the community. You will not be able to live." 

Stéphane Jaillet, from Quai de Saint-Édouard in Kent County, said he was also disappointed and ready to pull up his lobster traps if the price doesn't go up.

"We do not accept the price," he said in French. "It's not to make millions, it's just so that we [can survive] at the end of the week. If we do not have $6, I raise my cages." 

LeBlanc said fishermen wanted to send the message to buyers that they cannot operate at low costs like these.

"Every time they go out to sea, they'll accumulate more debt," LeBlanc said. "If you're going to go out on a fishing trip, and you know you're going to lose money, well, you're probably not going to go on this fishing trip."

Demand for lobster down

Geoff Irvine of the Lobster Council Canada said prices are declining because of consumer behaviour and market patterns. 

"High inflation, high food inflation, fuel costs — all of these things were not in place over the last few years," Irvine said. "So just essentially, demand has changed. So when demand changes, prices for products like lobster adjust. That means that the prices paid to harvesters adjust."

Prices for lobster hit record highs during the pandemic. Exports reached a threshold of $3.2 billion, according to the Maritime Lobster Processors Association.

Restaurants around the province were buying lobster for as much as $18 per pound in 2021, up $5 from the year before.

But this year, there is a clear decline. Processors are struggling to sell shellfish and cold storage units are full.

"People are not buying lobster like they did during the pandemic," said Irvine. 

LeBlanc said this is the case with all seafood, and demand was artificially inflated during the pandemic.

"And we're coming back to what is more of a normal economy in the seafood industry. We just didn't expect, you know, a 50 per cent or more price drop."

The fishing season in Zone 25 started last week and ends Oct. 12. For the moment, the fishermen in Prince Edward Island are continuing their normal activities.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Prapti Bamaniya is a journalist in Fredericton at CBC New Brunswick. She's completing her bachelor's of journalism at Toronto Metropolitan University. You can reach her at prapti.bamaniya@cbc.ca

With files from Nicolas Steinbach

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