ALBERTON -- Fisheries, Aquaculture and Rural Development Minister Ron MacKinley has signaled there is potential for more lobster processors to be operating in this province as early as next year.
Speaking at the annual meeting of the Western Gulf Fishermen’s Association on Tuesday, MacKinley said he has already told one entrepreneur to come back to see him in April.
That’s when a 10-year moratorium on the issuance of processing licences expires.
The freeze on licences was a clause in a deal in 2004 when the former Progressive Conservative government sold select assets of the failed Polar Foods operation to Ocean Choice International.
“It was one of the worst deals you’d ever see in your life,” MacKinley told WGFA members.
It was noted during the annual meeting that P.E.I.’s daily lobster processing capacity has slipped 100,000 pounds since 2008.
A fisherman, noting millions of pounds of lobster are being shipped into P.E.I. from Maine for processing, asked MacKinley whether it would be possible to ship live product the other way. The minister responded that it would be good to get more processing plants opened here.
“My commitment was, come next April, when that deal is there, if someone has a processing plant we expect that we’d licence it,” MacKinley explained during a subsequent interview. “We’d go in and we’d inspect the building. If the building passes inspection, they’d get a licence.”
The minister stressed that no additional licences can be issued until April, but suggested the awareness that he is ready to start issuing new licenses might give interested processors some lead time for preparations.