Since that is what the Island industry has been saying all along in opposing New Brunswick’s push to go to a minimum carapace length of 77 millimetres, fishermen here got their hopes up that the federal minister would be leaving the size limit at 72 millimetres.
Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay even issued a press release suggesting the statement points to the minister leaving the carapace size at 72 millimetres as the P.E.I. industry insisted.
Not so fast.
By late last week, the newspaper had retracted part of its story but not the part about conservation and Ashfield’s office was insisting a decision hasn’t been made yet.
His office provided this statement from the minister: “Obviously, I’m a minster from New Brunswick, but I’m also a minister for Canada and I have to look at what’s the best interest for the industry, and that’s the way I make all my decisions… I’m hopeful that the industry itself will be able to come to an agreement on this without too much intervention.
“I’m waiting for that information back from the department, and we’ll be making some sort of decision in due course.”
His office did not include that portion of the quote from the New Brunswick paper that mentioned that the carapace issue has nothing to do with conservation.
Lee Knox, president of the Prince County Fishermen’s Association, said Department of Fisheries and Oceans science is on P.E.I.’s side on the issue, having already agreed New Brunswick’s request for further carapace increases has nothing to do with conservation.
“Recruitment and the biomass of lobsters in the strait and the whole gulf is in great shape. (Ashfield’s) decision is not very hard to make,” Knox insisted.
He argues the dispute is not one of New Brunswick fishermen against P.E.I. fishermen. He has heard from numerous New Brunswick fishermen who do not want the carapace increase but they are afraid to say so publicly because they fear they will lose sales for their lobsters.
As well, said Knox, P.E.I and New Brunswick fishermen, together with the provincial governments, are working together on putting together a pilot program to learn more about preserving the quality of the lobsters they catch.
Knox said the size dispute has much to do with the size of product New Brunswick processors want to handle.
“(Ashfield) can’t get into the politics of one company outperforming another and get in the middle of it.”