ALBERTON – The president of the Western Gulf Fishermen’s Association says he’s convinced a levy for marketing Atlantic Canada lobster will be positive for the industry.
© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
“I support the levy big time. It’s your product,” Craig Avery commented. “Nobody’s going to market it for you. You have to market it yourself. If you don’t want to help marketing, then I guess you’re satisfied with what we’re getting for a price now.”
He is encouraged by a test vote conducted in Lobster Fishing Area 24 that shows the majority of the fishermen support having a cent a pound deducted from their catch to be applied towards marketing and promoting their product. Another cent a pound would be deducted from the buyer at the first point-of-sale. The levy was also looked on positively at the recent Lobster Value Summit in Halifax.
The levy would result in more than $2.5 million being available annually for marketing and promotion. Based on 2013 landings, approximately $575,000 would be generated on P.E.I. alone for such initiatives.
“If you just sit there and do nothing, nothing’s going to change,” Avery reflected. “To me it’s the last straw, because, if lobsters stay at $3 a pound you’re not going to get ahead too far. Eventually you’re just going to end up with poor rigging and no money to pay for anything new,” he argued.
Avery acknowledged there has been a lot of talk in the lobster fishery since last season when prices nosedived causing a boat tie-up across the Maritimes. There have been two lobster industry reports released since then and lots of discussions involving fishermen, buyers, processors and brokers.
Avery attended a trade mission to China last November and visited the Boston Seafood Show last month.
On both visits he saw significant interest in Canadian lobster.
“There’s actually some orders starting to come in. Hopefully it will make other processors/buyers a little more eager. If you have competition, you’re going to have better price. That’s all you can hope for,” he said.
“You’ve got to hope the processors and brokers are making money, too,” Avery said, “because they’re not going to give you a better price unless they’re getting a better price on the other end.”
Lobster, of course, is just one of the fish species the Western Gulf Fishermen’s Association is concerned about.
Avery is encouraged the catches have been remaining strong, but he knows the price has to climb for the fishery to be profitable for the fishermen, the buyers, processors and brokers.
Avery noted there are concerns about further reductions to the herring quota, the possible end to the recreational cod fishery and whether there will be any halibut quota for Island boats this year.
But, in the lobster fishery, Avery admits fishermen are even concerned about getting started on time. Conditions can certainly change dramatically in three weeks, but Avery notes ice currently has all ports locked in.
There are also mounds of snow in fishermen’s yards making it difficult for them to work on their boats and gear and to get the equipment hauled to the wharves.
There’s also a matter of placing gear on the wharves. Fishermen who traditionally pile their gear the furthest out have to place theirs first.
“I hope people are patient with people who pile their traps at the end of the wharf,” said Avery, noting those are the traps that have to be placed first.