Nova Scotia

Fisheries Minister Gail Shea supports lobster report

The federal minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada is calling a recent report from the Maritime Lobster Panel a good first step.

Maritime Lobster Panel made 33 recommendations to improve industry

Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea says she supports a report recommending changes to the lobster industry in the Maritimes. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press) (CBC)

The federal minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada is calling a recent report from the Maritime Lobster Panel a good first step.

Gail Shea said the 33 recommendations in the report, which suggested an overhaul of the $1-billion lobster industry, are thought provoking.

"I think there's some good recommendations in there and I think they're going to take quite some work to implement," she told Cape Breton's Information Morning.

The three-person panel, made up of one person from each of the three Maritime provinces, was appointed by the provincial fisheries ministers after fishermen tied up their boats in the spring to protest the price they were getting for their catch.

Shea said the panel's report mainly focused on issues that sit with the industry itself, such as marketing and price, while the role of Fisheries and Oceans Canada is to encourage people to have a voice within the industry.

Shea believes the best way to do that is through better organization, which was one of the suggestions in the report.

"One of the biggest issues facing this industry is just that it's such a fractured industry and all those involved don't work very well co-operatively," said Shea. 

"We have five provinces that produce lobster and all of the provinces have all varying levels of organization. I think that's probably a first step that we need to work on."

Among the report's 33 recommendations included a levy on every pound of lobster landed so that money could be used to market the product.

Another suggestion was that lobster prices be set before fishermen head out for the season.

Shea has some of her own recommendations for the lobster industry as well.

"Lots of times we have issues that come up and we'll end up with requests to the federal government and then you'll have fishers who say, 'Well, I wasn't consulted.' Well there is an avenue to be consulted and that's through organizations," she said.

"The government can't listen to a thousand different fishermen. It works much better when the organization speaks with one voice."

Shea also said there's a need for better management to avoid the glut of product at the start of the season and the resulting downward trend in prices. She said any requests for management changes have to come from the industry.