Nova Scotia

Cape Breton lobster fishermen struggle with low prices, lack of demand

Lobster fishermen in Cape Breton are struggling through the first two weeks of the 2020 season. A lack of demand means that in some areas, buyers are restricting the amount they purchase from fishermen.

'This is the first year I had to tell my fishermen I couldn't move their product,' says lobster buyer

Lobster fishermen in Cape Breton say COVID-19 is leading to a lack of demand and low prices for their product. (CBC)

Lobster fishermen in Cape Breton are struggling through the first two weeks of the 2020 season.

There is a lack of demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the price for lobster has dropped to $4.25 a pound. In some areas, buyers are restricting the amount they purchase from fishermen.

Marlene Brogan, the manager of Ballast Grounds Fisheries, a lobster buyer in North Sydney, said they've had to tell fishermen they can't buy their catch some days.

"We've been in business 21 years and this is the first year I had to tell my fishermen I couldn't move their product," said Brogan.

She said there have been many days the fishermen at their wharf haven't gone out to fish.

Oversupply problems

Brogan said when they can't sell the lobster they already have, they can't buy any more from the fishers.

The lobsters then have to be left to float in a crate at the wharf, which is risky.

"If there's one dead in the crate it kills everything around it," said Brogan. "Workers are pulling them out, taking out anything weak or dead and trying to save what we have."

Osborne Burke, the general manager of Victoria Co-op Fisheries in New Haven, said they have not had to restrict the amount of lobster they buy from local fishermen.

The co-op has its own processing facility, built with contributions from local fishermen, which means they're not as dependent on outside buyers.

Osborne Burke is the president and general manager of Victoria Co-operative Fisheries in New Haven, N.S. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

He said the processing plant is facing a shortage of workers, but not to the extent of plants in some other areas.

Still, he said, the season is a difficult one, and he believes the federal fisheries minister did not listen to those working in the industry and that is what is hurting Cape Breton's lobster season.

"You can't have 100 million pounds of lobster coming in when there's a market for 30 million," said Burke.

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