Nova Scotia

Sweden proposes EU ban of live North American lobster

Sweden wants a blanket ban on the importation of live North American lobsters across the European Union in an effort to prevent a possible underwater invasion.

Import ban could be a 'very serious matter' for Canadian lobster industry, says group

Nova Scotia exports 12.8 per cent of its lobster to Europe. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Sweden wants a blanket ban on the importation of live North American lobsters across the European Union in an effort to prevent a possible underwater invasion. 

Gunvor Ericson, the Swedish secretary of state for the Ministry of the Environment, told CBC more than 30 American lobsters have been found in the west coast of Sweden over the last few years.

The fear is the new lobster could threaten the local species. Sweden is now asking the European Union to consider an import ban on live North American lobsters. 

It's something those who work in the Swedish fishing industry are keeping a close eye on. 

Anders Wall works at Carapax, a fishing supply store in Sweden. He's seen a number of North American lobsters. He says the concern is they reproduce faster. 

He now hands out information pamphlets to fishermen to help them identify the foreign species. 

Scientists in Sweden fear their lobster species is being threatened by North American lobsters that have been discovered in their waters. (Vidar Öresland/Institute for Marine Research)

Fighting back

In Nova Scotia, the head of the Lobster Council of Canada doubts the discovery is as serious as Sweden claims. 

"They've found 32 lobsters in seven years," said Geoff Irvine. "We're skeptical that that could be called an invasion."

Irvine first heard of the proposed ban a few weeks ago, and immediately started meeting with industry officials. 

"It's very important," he said. "Our response to it is very much multi-level in terms of Canada and the U.S."

He said officials from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Environment Canada are all looking at the petition the Swedes presented.

This North American lobster was discovered in Sweden. It's easily identified with a different colour pattern than the local species. (Vidar Öresland/Institute for Marine Research)

Part of the mystery is how the lobsters ended up in Swedish waters. There's no way they could travel such a distance on their own, says Gilles Theriault with GTA Fisheries Consultants, based out of New Brunswick. 

"What could have possibly happened is some individual could've bought some live lobsters and instead of eating them, could've tried some kind of weird experiment and put them in the water, which is something that is serious." 

In Nova Scotia, a ban of live lobster imports could be a huge blow to the provincial industry. Currently, 12.8 per cent of the product is shipped to the European Union, at a value of $114,577,000 in 2015. 

"That would be a very serious matter if it ever came to that stage," said Theriault. 

"I think that we're far, we're still a ways yet on a decision on that matter. But we must be aware that this is in the works. We must take this seriously and we must prepare to intervene in proper time."