ALBERTON -- The president of the Prince County Fishermen’s Association says he can’t blame lobster fishermen in New Brunswick for standing in favour of further carapace increases.
“If their processors, who are buying their lobsters, are telling them they are not going to buy them, what choice do they have?” said Lee Knox. He is adamant the push for size increases by fishermen on the Northumberland Strait is really coming from the processors who buy their catches and has nothing to do with conservation or sustainability.
Island fishermen stormed out of a lobster advisory group meeting in New Brunswick Wednesday because they felt they were blind-sided by a New Brunswick presentation.
Knox said P.E.I. was only advised late Monday afternoon by DFO that the 9 a.m. meeting in Moncton Wednesday was to be an advisory meeting.
He said there were supposed to be two working group meetings to discuss different presentations before sitting down to an advisory meeting.
“When we walked in there, they had a consultant hired to do a presentation for (processors, Maritime Fishermen’s Union and the New Brunswick government), and recommendations from this meeting were going straight to the minister,” Knox said in describing how the meeting started to unfold.
The lobster grounds for LFA 25 takes in both sides of Northumberland Strait, including fishermen in parts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and the south shore of Western P.E.I. Fishermen throughout LFA 25, as well as P.E.I. spring fishermen in LFA 24 and 26A are scheduled to see the minimum carapace size increase from 71 to 72 mm this year and stay there. New Brunswick, however, is pushing for the measure to go to 73 mm this year, 75 mm in 2014 and stop at 77 mm in 2015.
It was miscommunication. They had more information about the meeting than we did. It wasn’t done properly. When you have a proper meeting with DFO there’s protocol that’s supposed to be followed, and it wasn’t followed - Lee Knox, PCFA president
P.E.I. representatives resisted efforts to have a position on carapace size formulated on Wednesday and were subsequently given until February 6 to have a presentation ready. An advisory meeting will follow, probably on February 13, Knox said.
“It was miscommunication. They (New Brunswick representatives) had more information about the meeting than we did. It wasn’t done properly. When you have a proper meeting with DFO there’s protocol that’s supposed to be followed, and it wasn’t followed (Wednesday),” Knox insisted.
“Now we just need to put what ideas we have onto a presentation in with the P.E.I. processors and the P.E.I. government.”
Knox was part of a fishermen delegation that met Thursday with Egmont MP and National Revenue Minister Gail Shea.
“She understands that the pressure is coming from the six processing plants in New Brunswick. It has nothing to do with rationalization or conservation,” Knox noted. “The stocks in LFA 25 are in good shape.”
Knox said P.E.I. fishermen are going to stand their ground that they don’t want the measure to go beyond 72 mm, and he said Minister Shea promised to stand with them.
“LFA 25 is just a very small percentage of the industry of lobsters. That little change that they are trying to make, that is going to be devastating to the fishermen, is not going to change industry for a better price. They won’t even guarantee us we’d get five cents more if we go up to 77 mm,” he insisted.