Nova Scotia

Lobster levy draws questions from fish packers

The province's fish packers association says it's surprised by the new provincial government's proposed levy on lobster.

Province's proposed levy of 5 cents a pound is more than double what was expected

Lobster exports are worth about $1 billion dollars per year in Nova Scotia.

The province's fish packers association says it's surprised by the provincial government's proposed new levy on lobster.

Marilyn Clark, executive director of the Nova Scotia Fish Packers Association, says she and others heard about it only when the minister announced the plan to collect five cents a pound.

An earlier report recommended two cents a pound for marketing — one cent from fishermen and one from buyers.

Fisheries Minister Keith Colwell says the extra money will be for quality assurance.

Clark says members of her group need a meeting to get some answers about specifics regarding the extra charge.  

"We've heard two things. We've heard one, that it's a pilot project, two, that it's going to be province-wide," she said.

"Three cents is expensive, if it's not a good business plan. If it's a good business plan, you'll find the money for it. It all depends on what this project is going to include and so far, we know nothing." 

Clark says lobster exports are worth about $1 billion per year in Nova Scotia.

"If you look at the fisheries investment right now, we have 0.1 — not one per cent — but 0.1 per cent of the Nova Scotia budget going to fisheries. That's about $9 million," she said.

"If you break that down into portions, the wild fishery only gets about $3.5 million of investment."

Sterling Belliveau, the New Democrat MLA for Queens-Shelburne and the former fisheries minister, criticized Colwell's move on Monday.

"The government has not received a mandate from fishers and buyers to impose this tax on their behalf," Belliveau said in a statement.

"At the moment this is not happening and as a result the Liberals are placing the independence of our lobster fishery at risk. As someone who was a lobster fishermen for over 35 years, I want to tell the minister this is wrong."

Belliveau also questioned whether this levy would be in place across all Maritime provinces, or whether it would be placed exclusively on Nova Scotian buyers and fishermen.

"Minister Colwell has yet to explain what most of this tax will be used for and who will administer his $4 million cash cow," he said.