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EDITORIAL: Cheer on the export stars


Recall four years ago lobster fishermen took the extraordinary measure of going on strike to get the point across that the industry couldn’t survive on rock-bottom prices.

Perhaps some people didn’t get it, or maybe some have short memories.

At any rate, this year prices are at a healthy rate – in the range of $6.50-$7.50 a pound for markets – fishermen are receiving more than they have in a couple of years. Obviously they’re happy to see a rebound.

But the change has some complaining on the retail front. McDonald’s restaurants, for example, are not offering the lobster roll they’ve featured in recent years. Everyday consumers as well are finding they have to pay a higher price.

Them are the breaks. What’s more important to the bigger picture in Atlantic Canada is that this industry is enjoying a robust season that goes beyond domestic markets – a strong export product, in other words, a need that entered the discussion back in 2013 when fishermen said they couldn’t continue if it meant losing money.

Somewhere along the line, consumers got spoiled, years when prices were lower. It would also be good for people to recognize lobster as the delicacy that it is. It is probably the iconic seafood product deemed a specialty of this part of Canada. Ship it to central or western parts of the country, they’re happy to have it and happy to pay the price.

In news reports on lobster prices carried by the CBC, a number of fishermen in the region have responded, suggesting that the public should be happy for the healthier return. It’s a vital industry in the region, with growing export potential. As the Halifax Chronicle Herald reported a year ago, One Nova Scotia, a coalition of business leaders working to grow the provincial economy that grew out of the Ivany commission, set a goal of increasing overall seafood exports from $860 million in 2013 to $1.72 billion within 10 years. The value hit $1.68 billion in 2015.

Last year, exports of lobster from Nova Scotia to the Chinese market alone was well over $200 million.

With representatives of both provincial governments and the feds beating the bushes in the European Union for trade links, eyes are also on those markets.

That kind of growth – and potential for increased growth – is something to celebrate and cheer on, the same as we would for any other export star in Nova Scotia. It contributes greatly to local economies, to employment across the region and to the province’s tax base in general.

Prices, granted, are a fickle thing. Depending on landings in a coming season and demand they could go up or down. But it pays to keep in mind, that only with a reasonable return for fishermen and recognition of the high quality of this product will the industry maintain a strong future.

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