N.B. lobstermen ask for help, not bailout

Published on
May 19, 2009

New Brunswick lobstermen are asking for the government’s help with the glut of lobster and absence of demand, which is resulting the lowest prices they’ve seen in decades.

However, they are not requesting a government bailout, even though some officials are suggesting subsidizing the lobster industry at CAD 1 per pound. With average annual landings of 10 million pounds, that could amount to a CAD 10 million (USD 8.7 million, EUR 6.4 million) government bailout.

“Given the current economic times, I do not believe the taxpayers of New Brunswick want government to support the purchase of lobster inventory,” New Brunswick Fisheries Minister Rick Doucet told the New Brunswick legislature on Tuesday.

Additionally, a subsidy could “result in trade problems with the United States, our largest seafood export market, making our problems even worse,” he said.

To offset lobster ex-vessel prices as low as CAD 2.75 to 3.00 a pound, the provincial government instead should “lobby for stronger intervention by the federal government,” said Doucet. “We need their commitment to measures that address the long-term issues, including fleet rationalization, a carapace size increase and additional marketing support.”

Doucet told Canadian Fisheries Minister Gail Shea and fisheries ministers from other Atlantic Canada provinces about lobstermen’s problems at the Lobster Summit meeting on Friday.

“A glut of lobster inventory, resulting from a credit crunch faced by foreign buyers and money-conscious consumers, means our traditionally lucrative lobster industry is now facing enormous challenges,” said Doucet. “Our fishermen, processors and seafood export companies are getting prices for their catches not seen in over 20 years.”

While outright subsidies are not the answer, Doucet said the federal government needs to understand how severe the economic impact can be and help lobstermen.

“Decision makers in [Ottawa] need to understand that the economic impact on fishermen, processors, plants workers and the communities is proportionally as devastating as the collapse of Ontario’s auto industry and is equally deserving of their attention and assistance,” said Doucet.

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