© AMY MACKENZIE - THE NEWS
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.
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