Nova Scotia

N.S. lobster industry awaiting Trudeau government plans

Canada's new Liberal government is in no rush to implement Stephen Harper's promise aimed at wooing voters in Atlantic Canada during the recent federal election of $20 million in funding for lobster promotion and research.

The federal government says it is currently developing priorities for the lobster industry

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau outlined some of his priorities for the fishing industry in a letter posted on his website. (Submitted by Rhonda Gallant)

Canada's new Liberal government is in no rush to implement Stephen Harper's promise aimed at wooing voters in Atlantic Canada during the recent federal election of $20 million in funding for lobster promotion and research.

Harper made the pledge Sept. 10 in New Annan, P.E.I. and promised $5 million for research and $15 million over three years to the Halifax-based Lobster Council of Canada to promote lobster sales.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada would not address Harper's promise, saying new Fisheries Minister Hunter Tootoo is developing priorities.

Tootoo's marching orders were spelled out in a ministerial mandate letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, which was released on the prime minister's website.

"Restore funding to support federal ocean science and monitoring programs, to protect the health of fish stocks, to monitor contaminants and pollution in the oceans, and to support responsible and sustainable aquaculture industries on Canada's coasts," Trudeau says in the letter.

Lobster Council of Canada president Geoff Irvine isn't holding his breath for the funding.

"We have received no money from the commitment... and we look forward to engaging with the new government in the coming weeks," he said.

Irvine is not the only one looking forward to understanding the new government's priorities.

In Halifax this week a conference is underway to review projects carried out by the Canadian Fisheries Research Network (CFRN). It was a $10 million collaboration between industry, academia and government launched under the Harper Government in 2010.

Half of  the money came from the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), which funds university research.

Funding for CFRN has expired. Principal investigator Rob Stephenson hopes it can be renewed under the Liberals.

"We want to define what type of research could best be done by collaboration, then we will go looking for funds," Stephenson told reporters in Halifax.

'We've learned a lot'

Lobster fishermen Kevin Squires from Big Bras d'Or helped develop one CFRN study tracking the movement of lobster. He wanted to find out who benefits from conservation measures.

"In fish in lobster fishing Area 27 in Cape Breton, we've been raising our size [of lobsters kept] in recent years. We haven't seen [the] great increases in production that we hoped for," he said.

"But in other areas that seem to be downstream from us, speaking of oceanographic currents, they are doing great. Upstream from us in areas where they take smaller lobster, they are doing really well, but we're not getting the trickle down."

He wants to know if fishermen upstream implemented conservation measures whether it would increase lobster abundance in his area.

Squires says research has a practical impact on industry.

Whether the new government renews CFRN funding won't be known until it puts forward a proposal.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Withers

Reporter

Paul Withers is an award-winning journalist whose career started in the 1970s as a cartoonist. He has been covering Nova Scotia politics for more than 20 years.

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