PEI

Frustration with DFO growing over lobster fishery, says P.E.I. premier

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King says lobster fishermen are being asked to make an impossible choice and Ottawa needs to step up and support them.

‘They’re really putting an unfair burden on the industry’

There is no guarantee if lobster fishermen go out that the market will be there, says King. (Shutterstock)

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King says lobster fishermen are being asked to make an impossible choice and Ottawa needs to step up and support them.

The lobster fishery off P.E.I.'s North Shore is scheduled to begin at the beginning of May, and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has said it will take the guidance of the industry in deciding whether to start the season on time, delay it or cancel it altogether in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But King said the choice is not a fair one, with loss of income on one side and uncertain health risks on the other.

"No one is sitting up and saying if you don't fish this is what we can do for you," said King.

"They're essentially saying do you want to fish, yes, and if you don't fish you can't make any money, so they're really putting an unfair burden on the industry here by not coming to the plate and saying we want to work with you."

King was on a weekly conference call with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other premiers Thursday evening. He said this was the third week in a row that he has raised the issue.

"I don't generally get on those calls and try to raise my voice too much but it has been frustrating,"  he said.

"We don't seem to be getting the response that we need with the urgency that we need."

Even if lobster fishermen do go out on the water, there is no guarantee the markets will be there. Like other industries, King argued, the lobster fishery is being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The industry, like others supported in the crisis, needs an adequate and fair economic package, he said.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Island Morning

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