By itself, it might not create much upward movement in the price of lobster, but Fisheries and Oceans minister Gail Shea made a giant stride Thursday towards giving fish harvester organizations more say in their industry.
Shea announced her department would honour the recommendations the Maritime Lobster Panel’s report directed its way.
“I recognize the importance of addressing these recommendations and understand how their implementation would help to advance the lobster industry,” she said in her official statement.
She promised to help empower organizations, to enable them to set criteria for making change to management plans. That’s good.
It’s fishermen’s livelihood at stake here and they should have some say on what’s fair. There’s a condition, though; organizations will not be able to make changes that could adversely affect fish stocks, and one organization cannot make a change that would negatively affect another fishing organization. That’s reasonable.
She also made it clear that while DFO supports sustainability measures in the lobster fishery, it will not be using taxpayer money for buyouts.
Fishermen’s organizations will need to finance the buyouts themselves and that’s reasonable, too, as it is the members of the organization that will benefit from the buyouts. Every retired gear leaves a greater share of the total catch for the remaining members.
Shea even provided an example of how the industry could do rationalization activities on its own. She suggested fishermen could stack licences. Two fishermen could team up to buy out a licence of a third fisherman. Each fisherman would get some of the retiring fishermen’s gear and the rest of the gear would be retired. The two fishermen would ultimately exert less pressure on the stocks than three full gears.
Perhaps the greatest tool the department is providing the industry with is electronic and automatic point-of-sale data collection. Once it is fully implemented, that should help all players in the industry understand the marketplace a little better and take some of the mystery out of the way the shore price is determined.
In the long run, it’s not the amount of control that the department gives to the fishermen’s organization that will win the day; what’s really going to matter is upward movement in price.
The lowering of the Canadian currency should help with that, and so should the removal of tariffs to South Korea and the completion of the trade deal with the European Union.