New Brunswick

Lobster fishermen block N.B. processing plant

About 200 lobster fishermen blocked a load of U.S. lobster at a processing plant in Shediac.

Protesting cheap U.S. lobster

Angry about American lobster

10 years ago
Duration 2:05
N.B. lobster fishermen are angry processing plants are buying lobster from the U.S.

About 200 lobster fishermen blocked a load of U.S. lobster at a processing plant in Shediac.

Six RCMP officers and 10 members of the emergency tactical team have been called in to help at Shediac Bay Processors.

The fishermen have given the plant owner Gilles Maillet an ultimatum — quit processing American lobster or they'll shut down the plant, according to the CBC's Marc Genuist.

Police watch over a tractor trailer in Shediac housing American lobster. (Marc Genuist/CBC)

The fishermen say plant owners are paying rock-bottom prices because of a glut of lobster in Maine and that means there will be no market for their catches when the season opens on the Northumberland Strait next week.

U.S. lobster is currently selling for about $2 per pound — due in part to an earlier than usual harvest this year.

In Maine, there have been significant catches of shedder lobsters, which have a soft shell and generally don't command the prices that the hard-shell lobsters do.

'It's a betrayal, for the Acadian fisherman and the province of New Brunswick.'—Maurice Martin, fisherman

"I'm bending the shell, there's nothing to it, it's garbage is what it is. It's garbage," said Scott Johnson, who fishes in St. Louis Cape.

It puts a lot of lobster on the market and means inexpensive Maine lobster can be shipped to the Maritimes for processing.

It's a price New Brunswick fishermen say they cannot match.

"My livelihood is on the line; everybody's livelihood is on the line," said Johnson. "Look at everybody here, look at them all. They're not happy." 

Local catches

"It's the American lobsters that are coming here, it's no good. It's wrong. They should be processing ours first," Johnson said.

Johnson says he starts fishing next week, but nobody is lining up to buy his catch.

"It's a betrayal, for the Acadian fisherman and the province of New Brunswick," said fisherman Maurice Martin.

Leonard Garnett, who drives a truck, says he sympathises.

"The economy is so bad that there's no market for them," Garnett said. "The market is full of people who don't have (any)money, the ones that do have money are not spending any money."

Two plants in Cap-Pelé were closed this morning — Cape Bald Packers and Shediac Lobster Shop, and RCMP have followed the fishermen from plant to plant, helping negotiate from closures.

American lobster is selling for about $2 per pound. (Marc Genuist/CBC)

The fishermen spotted a tractor-trailer in Shediac this afternoon with Maine licence plates. With its doors open, the load of lobster was in full view.

The protestors say they hope the truck they are blocking in the driveway will cause the load to rot.

Processing plant workers have been sent home.

Yesterday, dozens of fishermen stood outside a processing plant in Bedec, where they yelled at the plant owner and reportedly turned off the refrigeration units holding the lobster.

The fishermen say they'll continue to block processing plants that accept American lobster.

"They shut them all down, they're going to keep shutting them all down until we get our price and leave that U.S. lobster back in the U.S.," said Mike Allen, who fishes in Richibuctou.

"They got enough people down there to eat the lobster don't they? What about us? We can't sell down here."

"We don't feel like we have any help at all. I don't understand, where's the Minister of Fisheries? Where's a politician?" asked Debbie Thompson, who is about to go into her 13th season of lobster fishing.

The Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, Michael Olscamp, said he's ready to meet as early as tomorrow. "We will go to the table with the representative groups, but not until they withdraw their protests," he said.

Many fishermen said they feel like the Maritime Fishermen's Union that represents them hasn't done enough to prevent the current situation. After a union meeting yesterday, many said they left feeling unsatisfied.

"They didn't try to do something. They tried to cover themselves, becauce they had all winter to do something. Where are they in the winter?" Martin said.

Garnett said American lobster fishermen could also close the border — about 90 per cent of the lobster caught in southeast New Brunswick is sold in the U.S., he said.

Fishermen said if a meeting with the minister is not successful, they will do this again and protest at other processors across the province.