Maritime lobster levy in doubt after 'unanimous no' by buyers
Proposed levy would take 1 cent per pound from fishermen and another cent from buyers to pay for marketing
A "unanimous no" vote this week has put the future of a Maritime-wide lobster marketing levy in doubt.
The levy would take one cent per pound from fishermen and another cent per pound from buyers to pay for a generic marketing campaign run by the industry.
In Nova Scotia, the levy would raise $1.8 million annually from fishermen.
Terry Zinck, a lobster buyer in Clarks Harbour, was at the Tuesday vote that included most South Shore buyers.
"The lobster levy is dead in Southwest Nova Scotia, absolutely, no question about it,” he said.
About 30 to 35 buyers were there and Zinck says he represented another 20 to 30 more who couldn't make the meeting but told him they did not want the levy.
'Concept is not going to work'
"The idea of the levy and that concept is not going to work in our industry. That is not to be misconceived as reluctance on the part of the buyers to invest in our industry because we believe that’s important. It’s just the mechanism of the levy that is flawed for our industry," said Zinck.
The meeting was organized by the Nova Scotia government to get a feel for the one cent levy among buyers.
The buyers had concerns about how the money would be collected.
Zinck said people told the government it should focus on other issues affecting the business, such as the science of the lobster catch to understand why it varies from year to year.
"We haven’t done a very good job at studying the science of our resource. What is the health of our stock? We’ve seen the landings increase for the past decade, year after year after year — that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve got a healthy stock and it doesn’t necessarily tell us what’s around the corner or down the road," he said.
"I’ve been in this business for almost 30 years and the one thing I’ve learned is that what goes up, must come down and are we prepared for that?"
He said marketing is not the biggest issue. Infrastructure improvements are needed to make lobster transportation out of the Maritimes more reliable.
The Lobster Council of Canada and the province were not available for interviews on what this week's vote means for the one cent per pound levy proposal across the rest of the Maritimes.
A Maritime-wide levy was proposed in November 2013 by an advisory panel chaired by three maritime fisheries ministers. At the time, the industry was struggling with low prices.