Islanders don't understand lobster price issues, reveals poll

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Ian MacPherson, executive director of the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association, delivers a summary of the group's strategic plan and 2014 update at the annual meeting in Charlottetown Saturday.

The public can expect to hear more from the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association after members received a wake-up call on Saturday.

Members got a view of themselves through a public lens during the group’s annual meeting at the Delta Prince Edward in Charlottetown.

During a summary of the group’s strategic plan and 2014 update, executive director Ian MacPherson said one of the PEIFA’s goals for this year is to develop a strategy on engaging the public in issues relating to the industry.

A poll conducted in 2013 by a private company for the PEIFA saw 20 per cent of respondents say they believed that lobster prices remained the same during the past five years.

About 12 per cent were unaware of the state of landing prices.

“They (the public) know there are questions about price and prices being lowered but they really don’t fully understand it,” said MacPherson, adding that altogether about 70 per cent of Islanders polled had little understanding of the direction of prices in the past five years. “Obviously there is some work to do there.”

Last year’s $3 a pound landing prices sparked a solidarity strike from fishermen around the Maritimes during the first two weeks of the season.

While that strike caved in by mid-May, fishermen haven’t forgotten about the low prices.

The issue was also a big part of the convention Friday, with members calling for a vote on whether to tie up boats again this year.

The poll, which saw 300 participants share their perception of the industry, also saw more than half of those polled state they believed fishermen receive the same amount, or more, of government support as the provincial agriculture and tourism industries.

That is not the case, said MacPherson.

“There are very good programs out there but we need to correct some of the perceptions that are also out there,” he said.

Part of that strategy involves a new association website, which MacPherson said is in the stage of being “fine-tuned.”

“We need to tell our story we need to make it resonate with the consumer out there,” said MacPherson, who also used numbers from Statistics Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and provincial government in his presentation. “At the end of the day, the more positive public perception we have helps us with a lot of the things we do… if we’re advocating for funding, for programs or whatever it’s really important to have the public behind us.”

There were also some positive numbers from the poll, said MacPherson.

That included 74 per cent saying they personally know a fisherman.

“If we do a little work, we can get the public more on our side,” said MacPherson, adding that about 80 per cent responded that they felt the industry was important to P.E.I.’s economy. “They (the public) just tended to undervalue how much we contribute to the (provincial) economy.”

Organizations: Statistics Canada, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Geographic location: Charlottetown

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