UPDATED: Lobster fishermen protest low prices

Amy MacKenzie
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More than 200 fishermen gathered at the Caribou Wharf today to protest low prices for their lobster.

CARIBOU – It was perfect fishing conditions on the Northumberland Strait Thursday morning, but instead of being out on the water local lobster fishermen kept their boats docked in protest of low prices.

About 250 fishermen gathered at the Caribou wharf Thursday to unite in an attempt to bring up lobster prices.

Presidents of the local fishermen’s union and association led the discussions in which people from the crowd shouted that they want to see the fishermen stick together and demand higher prices from buyers and processors.

“We’ve got to stand together and get this straightened out or we’re done,” one unidentified man in the crowd shouted.

Vice President of the Maritime Fishermen’s Union (MFU) Local 4 Dustin MacInnis said local lobster was going for $3.75 a pound for canners and $4 for market lobster Wednesday.

Gordon Beaton, president of MFU Local 4, said the fishermen just want what’s fair.

“When you see your product land at the wharf for $3.50 or $4, but it’s still $8 to $10 in a local grocery store where it’s travelling five to 10 miles, and you go out west and it’s $20 to $25 a pound, it’s not costing that much to get it there so somebody’s taking the profits,” he said.  “We don’t want all of it, but we want a part of it.”

Dan MacDougall, president of the Gulf Nova Scotia Bonafide Fishermen's Association, said the fishermen decided at a meeting Wednesday to protest Thursday and Friday and to meet again Friday afternoon to decide what to do next.

MacDougall said that the consensus from the meeting Wednesday night was that they wouldn’t draw a line on $5 before they’d go back to fishing, but as the meeting at Caribou wharf drew on, more fishermen spoke up that they want to see $5 a pound before they untie their boats.

One man in the crowd shouted, “We want $5 or we don’t go fishing,” which was received with cheers and applause from the crowd.

“Well, I guess that’s clear,” Ronnie Heighton, president of Northumberland Fishermen’s Association said after the crowd fell silent.

Heighton said buyers and processors were invited to come to the protest at Caribou wharf Thursday, but only one showed up that he knew of. The one buyer decided not to speak to the crowd.

Heighton said the fishermen have every right to be frustrated with the low prices.

“Everyone of them is a small businessman and every cent that we make goes right back into the community. We’re talking somewhere between $35 and $37 million in dollars with that dollar a pound difference… That’s $35 to $37 million dollars that goes directly into the communities.”

Beaton said the protest Thursday and Friday stretches to the tip of Cape Breton. Ruth Inniss of the Maritime Fishermen’s Union said about 150 unionized fishermen in New Brunswick also have their boats docked.

The protests in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are in the wake of Prince Edward Islanders who tied their boats in protest Wednesday. Lobster canners were going for as low as $2.75 on P.E.I. before the protests. 

“Normally with fishermen, it’s hard to get them to agree on anything, but it’s bad enough that we have a consensus that things need to change,” Beaton said.

Heighton said the protest will continue Friday and the fishermen will decide what they want to do after that at the meeting Friday at 1 p.m. at the Antigonish Legion.


On Twitter: @NGNewsAmy


Geographic location: Caribou, Northumberland

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Recent comments

  • Sam
    May 10, 2013 - 15:57

    This situation kind of gives a new spin on an old proverb: Give a man a fish, and he will feed himself for a day. Teach him to fish, and make him a ward of the state for life!

  • Get Your Facts Checked
    May 10, 2013 - 07:47

    A quick search on the internet shows Sobeys in New Glasgow selling lobster for $5.99/lb and in Calgary $8.99/lb....not sure where Mr. Beaton is shopping!!

    • Tizzle
      May 11, 2013 - 23:03

      Yeah, don't expect this group to use fact and rationale to prove their point. Market dictates price, simple as that. You're free to sell them out of the back of a truck for whatever price you want. Have at er.

  • who cares
    May 09, 2013 - 17:59

    Same old song and dance. Government has carried fishers long enough ! And really. I don't feel for plant workers either such as North nova sea foods who. Hire foreign workers from Taiwan and supports there economy with such a high unemployment. Rate in that area and province. I truly don't. Know how they get away with it. ? As. Far as I'm concerned the writing was on the wall long ago. Still at 4. Dollars a pound they would make more than average worker in that area for wages. And. Helpers ? Most they can hope for is EI ,what a. Way to live. Hate to see. A fisherman. Work 52 weeks a year like most honest hard working Canadians. ! Here's one person who has no sympathie for a backwards industry. Look a t here safetyrecords. ? Theres not even enough weeks in a run of a year for what there. Allowed. To draw. In EI. Benefits. ? And. Alot of wives drawing claims also .

  • Outsider looking in
    May 09, 2013 - 16:44

    Only one buyer showed up for the protest. Well maybe the fisher man should only sell to that 1 buyer once the price gets fixed. Just a little thanks for the support and send the message to the other buyers. Remember fisherman stick together!!!!

  • It's a shame
    May 09, 2013 - 14:53

    When the buyers / processors are making almost as much as the fishermen the balance is out of order! It's harder and riskier to catch it than it is to re-sell / process it. Gluttony is one of the 7 deadly sin....... If the processors think that the balance is fair they should prove it. If they hide we know that they are taking more than they deserve!

  • chief wiggam
    May 09, 2013 - 13:34

    if there isn't enough money in it do something else. if the price goes up for them,the price goes up for the consumer. who then in turn don't buy as much or any for that matter.

  • I Care for Fisherman
    May 09, 2013 - 12:34

    Shame on "You Processors and Canners " You want the Fisherman to do all the hard work including All expenses and Labour for a mere 2.50 dollars a Pound ... Have You NO Conscience..... 5.00 is a Bargain price and You All Know That !!!!!

  • nick falconer
    May 09, 2013 - 11:09

    I feel that the fishermen need to stick together in order to raise the price. the fishermen work the hardest to bring the lobster ashore. The buyers should respect the fishermen enough to give them a decent price! RAISE THE PRICE! LET THEM FISH!