TIGNISH – The Member of Parliament for Egmont is suggesting now might be the time for the East Coast lobster industry in Atlantic Canada and the United States to start looking at boat quotas.
But Gail Shea, who is the current Minister of National Revenue and former minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, insists such a discussion would have to be industry-driven.
“Fifteen years ago, that would have been a taboo subject,” Shea said of any talk of quotas for the lobster fishery. “Taboo, and it certainly wouldn’t have crossed the lips of any politician, I can tell you that, but I’m saying the industry needs to have that conversation. It’s them.”
Shea points to the increases in lobster landings across the region as signs that conservation measures are working, but she admits the large supply of lobsters has forced downward pressure on prices.
“ What the industry needs to do is they need to sit down and have a serious conversation about how and when they fish lobster. They need to have a conversation about their own viability,” Shea said in an end-of-year interview. “ I’ve talked to a lot of fishermen about, ‘Is it time to go to talk about boat quotas at their meetings?’ Maybe it is.”
She noted the federal government supported the establishment of the Lobster Council of Canada as a mechanism to bring the industry together. She feels the industry needs to make more strides towards working together.
“If you look in at Atlantic Canada from the outside, we’re a small little area. The rest of the world is huge, but what happens right now is we’re marketing all individually. There’s no coherence among us, so the LCC was going to try to support the marketing somehow,” she noted.
The MP singled out a fish processor in her riding for praise, noting that Royal Star Foods has been successful in finding markets in Canada, but argued that the industry as a whole has to spread out its marketing.
There are different ways of doing things, the MP said.
“They just need to sit down. I think, and explore everything. Just put everything on the table. Nothing’s written in stone, but just talk about everything.
“This is not going to change overnight,” Shea stressed. “You can’t sit down and have this conversation and expect to make changes May the first, 2013. That won’t happen, but I think they need to look at what their industry’s going to look like 10 years down the road and work backwards from there. What do they want it to look like?”