PEI

P.E.I. lobster fishermen 1st in Canada to pool money for marketing

The chair of the new 12-member P.E.I. Lobster Marketing Board says the group has had about a dozen proposals submitted so far with recommendations how to spend the money.

It's a way for fishermen 'to be the master of their own destiny,' says P.E.I. Fishermen's Association

Lobster hand helps get traps ready for the start of the spring lobster season on Saturday, marking the start of collection of the one-cent-a-pound lobster levy. (Laura Chapin/CBC )

P.E.I. lobster fishermen are the first in Canada to offer money from their catch to help market their product.

The one-cent-a-pound levy will begin to be tallied when the first Island lobster is landed on Saturday.

The chair of the new 12-member P.E.I. Lobster Marketing Board, Charlie McGeoghegan, says around a dozen proposals with recommendations how to spend the money have been submitted so far.

He said those have come from consulting firms, fishing groups and individuals both on and off the Island.

McGeoghegan wouldn't share details, but said some of the ideas have been rejected already but a handful are still on the table.

About $300K expected

"We're taking the good, bad and the ugly, and will make a decision based on data," said McGeoghegan, who lobster fishes out of Pinette Harbour.

"The aim is to get more money into every fisherman's pocket on Prince Edward Island."

Charlie McGeoghegan, chair of the P.E.I. Lobster Marketing Board, says around a dozen proposals on how to spend the money have been submitted so far. (Submitted)

If this year's catch is similar to other years, he expects the board will have about $300,000 to spend.

He admits one cent a pound is not a lot of money to work with, but the board is looking at possibly using that money to leverage more, and also considering a partnership with the processors marketing group which is also collecting one cent a pound this year.

McGeoghegan doesn't expect any decisions will be made before July.

Board members all lobster fishermen

"It's not the time to be making decisions," said McGeoghegan, given that all 12 board members are fishermen from harbours across P.E.I., from North Lake to Seacow Pond.

McGeoghegan said the board will explore some of the recommendations further, including welcoming the proponents to make presentations, after the spring season closes at the end of June.

Some proposals cost more money than others, which he said would be weighed as well.

"If it's going to cost 25 cents but fishermen are going to make $3 from it, it's a good investment. We're not looking at spending 25 cents to earn 25 cents," said McGeoghegan.

Decisions will be made based on a vote by the board members.

The president of the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association says the levy is key to Island lobster fishermen being masters of their own destiny. (Laura Chapin/CBC )

'Master of their own destiny'

The president of the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association, Craig Avery, who is not a member of the marketing board, said it's a step in the right direction.

"The fishermen here on Prince Edward Island want to be the master of their own destiny," said Avery, who said he's seen a lot of highs and lows in the industry in the 40 years he's been fishing from Milligan's Wharf.

"We have to go out and try to market and promote our own product. I mean, nobody else is going to promote it for you. The processors have done a great job over the years of trying to create new markets, trying to market and promote lobster, and I think fishermen have a part to play in that as well."

Avery hopes lobster fishermen in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick create their own levies, because that would allow for an even bigger pool of money to be collected next year.

He points to Maine, where the state boosted its marketing budget to more than $2.2 million in 2013, as an example.

"I mean if you look at Maine ... they've done a terrific job at putting money together and in the state of Maine and marketing Maine lobster. I think we have to do it here in Canada as well."

The idea of a one-cent-a-pound lobster levy came from a summit held in March 2014 after record low prices the previous year. (Laura Chapin/CBC )

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