ALBERTON – A Prince Edward Island lobster fisherman delegation stormed out of a meeting in Moncton Wednesday at which the Maritime Fishermen’s Union pressed its case to move the minimum carapace size to 77 millimeters.
“There’s no way that we’re prepared to go to 77. It’s not wise, or feasible, or financially profitable for P.E.I. to go there,” an annoyed-sounding Mike McGeoghegan, president of the Prince Edward Island Fishermen’s Association, said in a phone interview Wednesday as the delegation was en route back to P.E.I.
The MFU had a consultant in attendance to back its case for the increases and McGeoghegan was miffed about that.
“They only gave us two days notice on this (meeting). We knew the meeting was coming, but we didn’t have a criteria, and we didn’t know they were going to have a consultant there.
“I’m not pleased with the way it went down,” he said.
“They came at us way too hard. We thought it was going to be a discussion. We were going to sit down, put some real good ideas on the table, look at the quality, look at the markets, but it wasn’t like that.”
He said the Island delegation walked out following the MFU presentation and after a February 6 date was set for a P.E.I. response.
“We’re going to come back home here and get our ducks in line and go over all the numbers they gave us. We don’t trust any of the information they gave us. We are going to go back, look at it and draw up a brief and, February 6, we are going to bring it back to them,” he said.
The carapace measure increases by one millimeter to 72 millimeters this year. That’s as far as P.E.I. fishermen want to go, fearing further increases will eat away at their niche market for canner lobsters.
“They seem to have their mind made up, and that’s fine, but they don’t need to be pulling us in on it,” - Mike McGeoghegan, President PEIFA
The MFU is pushing to go to 73 next year and to keep climbing until the minimum measure hits 77.
“They have no scientific data on that and they have no economic impact study on that, so there’s no reason for us to go,” McGeoghegan insisted. “If they go into that, they’re going into that large market lobster and that’s a big market. Why would we jump in with everybody else when we have a niche market for our canners here on P.E.I.?”
Reminded of a Globe in Mail article Wednesday in which an MFU member points to Red Lobster’s requirement for four-once minimum lobster tails, when 72 mm lobsters would only produce two to three-ounce tails, McGeoghegn shot back that Red Lobster does not run the lobster industry. He insisted the restaurant chain’s preference can still be met without increasing the minimum size.
“They seem to have their mind made up, and that’s fine, but they don’t need to be pulling us in on it,” McGeoghegan said of the New Brunswick position.
“‘We’re going to 77 and you’re coming with us whether you like it or not,’” he said in paraphrasing what he took to be the New Brunswick position. “That’s the wrong way to do this. I’m against that, and that’s why, at the last of it, we decided to leave them there until we come home and look at all of the information.”