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Call for Help to Save Lobster Industry

by 5m Editor
18 May 2009, at 1:00am

CANADA - Fisheries organisations throughout Atlantic Canada have issued a joint call for provincial and federal fisheries ministers to convene an emergency meeting to deal with the devastating lobster market collapse, which is threatening the survival thousands of small fishing enterprises throughout the Atlantic region.

Members of the FFAW/CAW in Newfoundland and Labrador; the Maritime Fishermen’s Union (MFU) in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia; the PEI Fishermen’s Association; the Regroupement des Pêcheurs professionnels du Nord de la Gaspésie in Québec; are urgently calling for the government to intervene in the wake of reports that lobster prices in the days ahead could fall as low as $2.75-$3.50 per pound.

"We are looking at prices that we haven't seen in 20 to 30 years — this has the potential to destroy the Atlantic lobster fishery, along with the harvesters and communities that depend on it to survive," said FFAW Secretary Treasurer David Decker.

"People don’t seem to realise that lobster is the most important fishery for small enterprises in the less-than-45-foot fleet in rural communities throughout Atlantic Canada. We need to have our governments step in and take immediate steps to help address problems both for now and in the future."

Christian Brun of the Maritime Fishermen’s Union (MFU) also said: "These are historic times… never in recent history have we seen the lobster industry in such an alarming state. And desperate times have also called for historic measures.

"This is one of the few attempts to join Atlantic Canadian fish harvester organizations for concerted action. We have already discussed unity on many issues… and we all agree on the basic fact that governments have too long ignored the crucial Atlantic Canadian industry and the economic benefits it generates for Canada.

"This is a sad reality because some great ideas for fundamental structural adjustments of our fisheries have been on the table long before this crisis began and were set aside… We believe this industry has enormous potential in the not-so distant future. Many countries in the world have perceived this great opportunity and have acted: why would our governments not want to participate so the Canadian fishing industry remains competitive on a worldwide scale?"

Kay Wallace representing the Gulf Nova Scotia Bonafide Fishermen’s Association said: "The fishing industry in Atlantic Canada is facing an immediate crisis with this season’s severe drop in prices. Lobster fishers spend any profits made in their local communities. With prices so low, they will have no profits; only losses.

"This will have a direct effect the economies of local communities. This will likely also see recent new entrants forced out of the fishery."

Dave Crawford, of the same organisation, added: "I really don't know what some fishers will do."

The Atlantic fisheries organisations want the provincial and federal ministers to work with them to find solutions to help harvesters survive this year, but also to develop a longer term plan to ensure the future viability of the Atlantic lobster industry through improved marketing and rationalisation.

Ed Frenette of the PEIFA relays some strong feelings of abandonment as he said: "Three million people in Atlantic Canada are being abused by Steven Harper’s government. It’s time to stand up! It might start with fishermen, but in my view, it could go far beyond that…"

Firthcoming meetings of Atlantic fish harvester organizations will concentrate on various options in regards to what action will be taken. In total, approximately 10,000 harvesters are affected by the market collapse, including 3,000 in Nova Scotia, 2,500 in Newfoundland and Labrador; 1,800 in New Brunswick, 1,500 in PEI and 1,000 in Quebec.

5m Editor