Maritime Ministers meet to discuss lobster industry

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PICTOU – Fisheries ministers from the Maritime provinces are moving forward to address issues facing the lobster industry at the Lobster Value Recovery Summit, March 26-27.

A fisherman bands a lobster during last season. The Maritime ministers are meeting to discuss issues facing the industry. FILE PHOTO

The summit was announced Wednesday by Nova Scotia's Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Keith Colwell, New Brunswick's Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries Minister Michael Olscamp, and Prince Edward Island's Fisheries, Aquaculture and Rural Development Minister Ron MacKinley.

The summit will focus on key recommendations in the Maritime Lobster Panel report, which was presented to the three ministers last November, and to gain consensus on the changes necessary to strengthen the industry.

"It is critical that we receive input and direction from the lobster industry," said Colwell. "I look forward to hearing the discussion that comes out of this summit as it will help define our actions as we move forward on this important initiative."

MacKinley said he is very pleased with the positive response to the report and the progress to date.

"We have participated in numerous meetings across the province," said MacKinley. "There is good discussion taking place within the industry on how we can achieve a more stable lobster fishery that will see increased prices for today's fishers and processors as well as for the next generation."

The report is the result of a Maritime-wide strike last year by lobster fishermen who refused to fish early in the season because of low prices. Fishermen tied up their boats and met in Antigonish several times to discuss their options, but eventually voted to return to water after government officials from Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick agreed to look into the situation.

The report was released in the spring and fishermen unions have had their say into its findings and recommendations.

Since the report was presented, ministers in each province have hosted sessions where the lobster panel members briefed industry stakeholders on the report. Two additional session will be held in February, one in Nova Scotia and another in New Brunswick, for Atlantic First Nations' harvesters representatives.

"The report has generated attention and interest within the lobster sector," said Olscamp. "In order to move forward, industry stakeholders from all sectors must sit together and find the ways to implement the changes they wish to see in order to increase value for all segments of the industry."

The summit will also include representatives from Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec. The Lobster Council of Canada will lead the organization of the summit, with the assistance of a steering committee comprised of industry and government representatives from the three Maritime provinces.

The panel met with about 100 organizations representing fishermen, buyers, shippers, processors, brokers, and First Nations throughout the Maritimes, Newfoundland, Quebec and the state of Maine. The panel also received nearly 30 submissions from organizations, companies and individuals.

The report addresses the sudden drop in price in the spring of 2013 and examines the various cost and revenue components of harvesters, buyers and processors in the Maritimes. The report provides recommendations on marketing initiatives and on a course of action to stabilize and increase prices paid to harvesters. It also identifies options for a formal system where industry would know the price paid to harvesters in advance of landings.

Organizations: Maritime Lobster Panel, The Lobster Council of Canada, First Nations

Geographic location: Maritime, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick Prince Edward Island Newfoundland and Labrador Quebec Antigonish Maine

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