Canada: US needs to run its lobster fishery
Both Canadian and U.S. lobstermen believe that Maine’s lobster processing industry needs to become more self-reliant. Leaders of lobstermen groups told SeafoodSource this week that they support Maine Governor Paul LePage’s efforts to attract new lobster processors to Maine.
“Absolutely, I agree with that. 60 percent of all Maine’s catch is processed in Atlantic Canada. Americans need to run their fishery,” Mike McGeoghegan, president of the Prince Edward Island Fishermen’s Association, told SeafoodSource.
At the recent Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland, LePage said the state’s lobster industry should be much less dependent on Canadian processors. Attracting new businesses to Maine is part of the state’s three-year, USD 3 million (EUR) promotion and marketing plan that was launched last year.
McGeoghegan said all lobstermen are in the same boat, struggling to achieve the price that their catch is worth and sell their product to more markets. “It shouldn’t be us versus them. We want them [U.S. lobstermen] to be paid fair so we can be paid fair,” McGeoghegan said.
“We are always going to have a cooperative relationship with Canada as wells compete with them,” said Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association. McCarron supports efforts to grow Maine’s lobster processing facilities, but notes that the state has already made tremendous strides.
“As few as 10 years ago, we had really only two processing facilities in Maine. In 2013, the state issued 16 processing licenses,” McCarron said. “We are still not able to process everything that we land, but we are able to process a greater proportion of the product that we land,” she added.
A larger issue, according to McGeoghegan, is the challenge U.S. and Canadian lobstermen face in obtaining a “fair” price. PEIFA was one of a few Canadian fishing groups whose members tied up their boats early in the season when buyers began offering prices they deemed too low.
“There needs to be a fair trade component to the fishery: a certain amount of money needs to come back for a certain effort. This is a dangerous job that we do,” McGeoghegan said.
This season, PEI lobstermen were offered CAD 2.75 (USD 2.64, EUR 1.98) a pound for lobster going to canneries and CAD 3.16 (USD 3.03, EUR 2.26) a pound for live market lobster. In 2006, Canadian lobstermen were paid CAD 4.50 (USD 4.32, EUR 3.24) a pound and CAD 5.50 (USD 5.28, EUR 3.96) a pound on average, according to McGeoghegan.
“The consumer pays top dollar — this year it was between CAD 12.50 (USD 11.99, EUR 9) to CAD 17.50 (USD 16.78, EUR 12.60) a pound — and there is no filter down to us,” McGeoghegan said.
While many Canadian lobstermen tied up their boats earlier in the season, government rules required them to return to fishing within 72 hours. Ultimately, they agreed to accept buyers’ prices.