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Optimism heading into the 2017 lobster season off southwestern Nova Scotia

A fisherman catches a coil of rope while piling lobster gear on the East Pubnico wharf in preparation for the upcoming season. KATHY JOHNSON
A fisherman catches a coil of rope while piling lobster gear on the East Pubnico wharf in preparation for the upcoming season. KATHY JOHNSON - Kathy Johnson

 

 

 

 

 

YARMOUTH, N.S. – While many factors can come into play before an opening shore price is determined in the commercial lobster fishery, there is reason for optimism going into this season.

In the Upper Bay of Fundy in Lobster Fishing Area (LFA) 35, where the season opened on Oct. 14, there are reports of strong landings and a solid shore price of $6.50. The Canadian dollar was trading at less than 80 cents with its American counterpart in October, which is always good news for Canadian exporters.

The icing on the cake is the duty-free tariff on live lobster exports to Europe that took effect on Sept. 21 under the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). Previously, live lobster exports into Europe carried an eight per cent tariff. Under CETA, tariffs on frozen and processed lobster will also be phased out over the next three to five years.

This is good news for the lobster industry, says Geoff Irvine, executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada.

 

Geoff Irvine of the Lobster Council of Canada
Geoff Irvine of the Lobster Council of Canada

 

“This is a great opportunity to sell more lobster so it’s really good news,” Irvine told fishermen during the SWNS Lobster Forum in Yarmouth this fall.

While it is “too soon to show actual growth with data,” said Irvine in an early-November interview, “there is anecdotal information from shippers that European customers (mostly in the south like Italy, Spain and France) are coming back and asking for quotes on live lobster now that we are more competitive with our competitors from the United States. Time will tell how this plays out but early news is positive.”

Asian markets also show good growth potential, says Irvine. According to statistics provided at the lobster forum, the total value of Canadian lobster exports to Asian countries increased by $167.6 million from 2014 to 2016 – from $210,658,120 to $378,293,703.

The Lobster Council of Canada, along with contingents of Canadian exhibitors, attended two seafood expos in Asia this fall. About 16 companies from Eastern Canada attended Seafood Expo Asia in Hong Kong in September, said Irvine.

“This is a relatively small show but comments from exhibitors noted that while the number of buyers in attendance was down, the quality of buyers was up so most found the show very useful to continue to develop current relationships and build new ones,” Irvine said.

 

Lobster fishermen Jamie Bub Nickerson (on the truck), Chris Thurston (left) and Floyd Amirault unload lobster traps at the East Pubnico wharf in preparation for the upcoming season. KATHY JOHNSON
Lobster fishermen Jamie Bub Nickerson (on the truck), Chris Thurston (left) and Floyd Amirault unload lobster traps at the East Pubnico wharf in preparation for the upcoming season. KATHY JOHNSON

 

A total of 55 companies from across Canada attended the China Fisheries and Seafood Expo in late October/early November. The show “was very successful with high traffic and lots of interest in lobster,” said Irvine.

“Our challenge in China remains that we quote prices into that market where everyone can be profitable as competition often causes Canadian exporters to undercut one another. However, the Chinese market remains an excellent opportunity for Canadian shippers as more lobster is sold through traditional channels and new e-commerce verticals.”

Over the last 10 years, increased supply and lower prices have allowed the Lobster Council of Canada to broaden lobster markets, which in turn has helped sustain higher prices and demand. Ninety-eight per cent of Canadian lobster is now certified to Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standards, which has also helped in the marketplace.

According to DFO spokesman Steve Bornais, the 2015-16 season was a record for LFA 33 and 34, with total landings combined from both LFAs totalling 39,200 tonnes with a landed value of $570 million. Preliminary data for 2016-17 indicates landings were just over 30,200 tonnes with a landed value of $490 million for both districts combined.

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