New Brunswick

Lobster sector needs new price-setting rules, expert says

New Brunswick’s lobster fishermen and the owners of processing plants must hammer out a new way to set the price for lobster, according to an industry consultant.

Gilles Thériault says New Brunswick should look to systems used in Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador

New Brunswick’s lobster fishermen and the owners of processing plants must hammer out a new way to set the price of lobster, according to an industry consultant.

A fisheries consultant says New Brunswick lobster fishermen and processing plants needs to agree to a new way to set prices.
The start of lobster season means the annual conflict between fishermen and the plants that buy their lobster has started.

Lobster fishermen in New Brunswick say they are receiving 25 cents a pound less than their counterparts from Prince Edward Island.

The processors, meanwhile, say they can't afford to pay more than $3.50 to $4 a pound.

Gilles Thériault, a fisheries consultant, said the annual conflict must stop.

Thériault was one of three consultants who were hired by the three Maritime provinces last year to find ways to reduce tension in the industry. But they remain stuck on setting the price of lobster.

“There's still that level of mistrust and they feel that this is not going to help us, but it's going to hurt us more,” he said

Thériaiult said the New Brunswick industry should look to Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador. Those provinces use different systems of setting the price for their catch, and while he said neither system is perfect, they are both far less contentious.

"Clearly, from what we're seeing in New Brunswick today, the status quo is certainly not working," Thériault said.

"That's why I'm a bit disappointed and I believe that both the fishers and the processors should give this matter more thought."

Neither the Maritime Fishermen's Union nor the Maritime fish processors say they are interested in such a method.

Tabusintac fishermen protested low lobster prices in May 2013. (CBC)
Christian Brun, the executive secretary for the Maritime Fishermen’s Union, said the problem is that processing plants in New Brunswick are simply not paying enough for the popular crustacean.

“It's very unfortunate that we have processors in New Brunswick not respecting local harvesters,” he said.

Jerry Amirault, who represents the Maritime fish processors, said there are many factors that go into how much processors set their prices.

“We've had a lot of instability, we've got chronic labour shortages in the industry. All these things reflect on how it makes it very difficult,” he said.

Last May, lobster fishermen in eastern New Brunswick tied up their boats for several days and refused to fish in protest to the prices they were receiving for their catch.