SKINNERS POND -- Lee Knox has one word to describe the price fall lobster fishermen are receiving for their catch, but he uses it twice. “Terrible, terrible price,” he said.
The Prince County Fishermen’s Association president said the price he keeps hearing from fishermen who’ve received payment so far is $2.50 a pound for canners and $2.75 a pound for markets. That’s the same price that fishermen received last fall but Knox insists it is not enough.
“It should be $3.00 and $3.25 (a pound) right now, he insisted.
The only saving grace so far is catches started off strong but Knox said that can’t last. He expects landing will take a big tumble starting Tuesday. Although he didn’t have a handle on overall landings, he said his catch, so far, is up over the same period last year. He has heard form fishermen who are up and from just as many who say their landings are not as strong.
Other factors are at play which make the lobster price even less palpable than last year. Bait costs are high and fuel prices are up even before factoring HST into the cost. He said fuel is around $1.15 a litre this year compared to 91 cents last year. Many fishermen are travelling farther this year, he said, driving their fuel bills even higher.
Knox did acknowledge there is a $2.50 a pound lobster in the United States, but he said that is what fishermen there are receiving for their soft-shell and cull lobster. He insists P.E.I. fishermen are currently landing quality, hard-shell lobster.
“The quality of lobster in LFA 25 right now is the best they’ve been in years,” he emphasized. He said that’s due to the quality of lobster coming up in the trap and the steps fishermen are taking to preserve the quality, including making two trips to the harbor during heavy hauls, packing lots of ice, and not putting more than 60 pounds of lobsters in the pans.
“You can’t compare our lobster to culls and soft shells coming in from the States,” he insisted.
Fishermen in the states, Knox said, are receiving $3.25 to $3.50 a pound for quality lobsters and he said LFA 25 fishermen should be seeing similar results.
So far there has been no talk of boat quotas for P.E.I. lobster fishermen, Knox said, but he has heard that some New Brunswick boats are on quota. What he finds alarming about that, he said, are reports that some NB plants that have placed their boats on quota are bringing in extra lobster from the States.
Knox fears a few power-brokers are controlling the price and keeping it low. He argues fishermen and buyers would both do better if the price went up. When the shore price is kept low, he said, everyone in the world knows that and sets prices accordingly. He pointed out buyers would pocket another dime a pound from a 20 per cent margin on a $3.00 lobster than they earn with the same margin on a $2.50 lobster.