Fishermen seek regulation of lobster price

The P.E.I. Fishermen's Association is looking to Iles de la Madeleine for a model to get higher lobster prices.
A way needs to be found to get a bigger share of the money for the final lobster product into the hands of fishermen, argues the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association. (CBC)

The P.E.I. Fishermen's Association is looking to Îles de la Madeleine for a model to get higher lobster prices.

PEIFA president Mike McGeoghegan says this is the last year P.E.I. fishermen will start pulling up traps before they know what they'll be paid for the lobster they bring in.

Fishermen will not head out on the water before the price of lobster is set next year, says PEIFA president Mike McGeoghegan. (CBC)

"What we're doing right now is not working," said McGeoghegan.

"This is a dysfunctional system we're working under. We'll never do this again. This is going to change this year."

P.E.I. lobster fishermen are back on the water Wednesday after refusing to fish for almost week in a protest over prices of $3 a pound. A series of meeting with processors failed to negotiate a price increase.

McGeoghegan thinks he might see a solution in Îles de la Madeleine, the Quebec archipelago sitting in the middle of the Gulf of St. Lawrence north of P.E.I. Prices there are set each week by a local marketing board which looks at how much buyers make when they sell the product to restaurants and retailers.

Marilyn Clark, manager of the Cape Dauphin Fishermen's Co-op, said the system isn't perfect but at least it shows fishermen what their lobster are worth.

"What it does offer is transparency," said Clark.

"To me, there's a balance to be kept between fishermen, processors and the market, and I don't see the point in being afraid to show the numbers."

This week fishermen in Îles de la Madeleine are being paid $4.40 a pound for their market-sized lobster, almost a dollar above P.E.I. prices.

McGeoghegan said it's time for the P.E.I. government to set up a similar mechanism to regulate lobster prices on the Island.

Changing the season suggested

Egmont MP Gail Shea is suggesting a different approach.

Extending the season would allow fishermen to fish when prices are high, says MP Gail Shea. (CBC)

The former federal fisheries minister believes extending the fishing season may be one way to get a better price.

"What if there were no season restrictions? What if fishers could fish for 16 weeks as opposed to nine weeks and it wasn't a race to the fish?" said Shea.

"They could fish when the market price is higher."

Shea comes from a fishing family and represents hundreds of fishermen from western P.E.I.

Shea said the federal government is willing to work with processors and lobster fishermen, but the solution has to come from people making a living off the water. Solutions imposed by the federal government don't always work, she said.