North American-wide lobby fighting to save live lobster exports to Europe

Groups lobbying to protect North America's live lobster shipments to Europe have been having weekly phone calls and strategy sessions, says the Lobster Council of Canada.

Lobster Council of Canada will have a good idea by Aug. 31 where the EU is leaning

The European Union committee on invasive species will release its recommendations August 31 on possible ban. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

Groups lobbying to protect North America's live lobster shipments to Europe have been having weekly phone calls and strategy sessions, says the Lobster Council of Canada. 

"We have been advocating with governments. We've been encouraging Canadian exporters to advocate with their national governments," said executive director Geoff Irvine. 

The groups include federal and provincial officials and key lobster industry players from the United States and Canada. 

Five months ago, Sweden called for a ban on all live lobster imports from North America after 32 American lobsters were captured in Swedish waters between 2008 and 2015.

Unclear how American lobster got there

Irvine said there are several theories as to how they got there.

"There's speculation that they were released by environmental groups or religious groups, or that they escaped through regular commercial activity," Irvine said.

We need the European Union.- Geoff Irvine

Live lobster are sometimes stored in cages in the water, and some could have escaped.

The Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management argues the American lobsters pose a risk as an invasive species, so as a precautionary measure it's calling for the ban, but Irvine said science doesn't back that up. 

"To say that it's an invasive species, we think, is wrong. There's no scientific basis for it. The risk assessment that they've provided has been picked apart by Canadian and American scientists," he said.

Recommendations should be telling 

The European Union's committee on invasive species is expected to release its recommendation on whether it supports a ban Aug. 31. Irvine said it's too early to say where that committee is leaning. 

"This could be a serious economic impact if this happen," said Irvine.

The European market takes about 10 per cent of Canada's live lobster exports currently, with increases expected with the drop in tariffs proposed under CETA, says Geoff Irvine. ((CBC))

About 10 per cent of Canadian live lobster exports go to Europe, valued at around $66 million, and Irvine said that doesn't include re-exports of live lobster from the U.S. that originated in Canada.  

"Even with the growth of Asia, even with the growth of other markets, we need the European Union," said Irvine.

"When you think about trade agreements that we're trying to get finalized, and the fact that lobster tariffs come off over seven years to zero, European Union is and will be a very key market for us."


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