ALBERTON -- Among the P.E.I. fishermen attending a lobster meeting in Moncton on Wednesday was Western Gulf Fishermen’s Association president Craig Avery.
Avery represents north side fishermen in Lobster Fishing Area 24 and was in attendance as an observer. He said Thursday he agrees with the Island delegation’s decision to walk out of the Moncton meeting.
“It’s another mess we didn’t need,” Avery said of a joint presentation from Maritime Fishermen’s Union, processors and provincial government in New Brunswick calling for the minimum carapace size in Northumberland Strait’s LFA 25 to be increased to 77 by 2015.
He admits he is not buying the New Brunswick group’s assurance that they are not pushing for increases in P.E.I.’s LFAs 24 and 26A. He noted the presentation indicated that LFA 23 in New Brunswick would have to go up in size simultaneously because it is interrelated with LFA 25. He said it could be argued LFA 26A and 24 are interrelated with LFA 25 in P.E.I. because they are adjacent.
“Once they get the size up over there, that could be their way of forcing us up,” Avery said, suggesting New Brunswick plants could choose to stop handling product from P.E.I. that has a smaller carapace size.
He agrees with the P.E.I. position that size increases are not warranted.
“Catches have almost doubled in the strait,” he said. “As far as conservation right now, if they could just keep doing what they’re doing, in my opinion, they have good measures in place.
The P.E.I. opposition’s fisheries critic, Colin LaVie, is also backing the stand taken by Island fishermen. He said Thursday he is calling on Federal Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield to leave the size limit alone.
LaVie said P.E.I. accounts for 80 per cent of the processed canner market and changes to the size could devastate the island’s industry.
“PEI’s lobster fishing industry should not be dictated to by a stakeholder that has only a 20 per cent interest in the canner industry,” LaVie said. “It is the Island fishery that is a stake here. It is our processors, our fishers and their families who will suffer.”