ALBERTON -- PEI Fishermen’s Association president Mike McGeoghegan applauded Egmont MP and National Revenue minister Gail Shea on Thursday for breaking the ice on a once-taboo subject of boat quotas in the lobster industry.
Shea had suggested during a year-end interview with the Journal Pioneer that it might be time for the lobster fishery to consider quotas as a means of improving lobster prices.
“Somebody needed to break the ice and she did it,” McGeoghegan said. “So once that ice is broken, when you have a federal minister making a statement like that, that brings conversation in the coffee shops and in the trap houses and all across the country, really. Now it’s out there; it’s not a taboo word anymore. Now its out in the public.”
While McGeoghegan acknowledged the National Revenue Minister’s comments are generating discussion, he said they are not generating a lot of negative feedback.
“I expected the phone to light right up and get all kinds of negative comment,” he said. “That hasn’t happened. That tells me people are thinking.
They’re thinking about what she said, and it’s not the negative word it would have been two or three years ago.”
The president of the Western Gulf Fisherman’s Association, Craig Avery, however, said he has heard from several fishermen expressing concerns about the minister’s suggestion, but he points to what Shea didn’t say.
“She didn’t say the government was going to impose quotas, but she suggested fishermen maybe should take a look at it,” he stressed. “If they don’t want to, well then, I guess they won’t be. It looks to me like everybody is at least going to talk about it.” He noted the quota suggestion was to be a topic of discussion during a fisher meeting in Barrington Harbour, Nova Scotia Thursday night.
“I think her comments, from what I read, were basically on economics: Is there too much product out there? Is it glutting the market and driving the price to nothing?” he paraphrased.
“Gail threw the gauntlet down when she made a public statement that we need to talk about quotas,” McGeoghegan acknowledged. “She’s absolutely right. That whole discussion has to take place.” He suggested individual fishermen have to come to terms with what quota might mean, and he said the discussion has to be held all along the east coast, even into the United States.
“We do as an industry need to look at going probably to quotas in order to stabilize the market,” McGeoghegan commented.
“Right now we have a sustainable fishery but we don’t have sustainable fishermen," he stressed. "So we need that quota in order to stabilize the industry.”