As the spring lobster season approaches, I would like to express several comments about the upcoming season. It is with much curiosity I and other fishermen have questioned why an opinion letter entitled “Lobster Trap” by David Weale published on Nov. 20, 2012, in The Guardian, and also in his RED magazine failed to elicit a single response from government or the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association.
In it, Weale suggests that a single broker, Orion Seafood International, is marketing approximately 70 per cent of all lobster caught and processed in Maine and the Maritimes. Several fishermen suggested that Mr. Weale summarized the “monopoly problem” we are facing for free, versus the large amount of money paid for the Younker and Maritime Lobster Panel reports, which skirted this issue.
The PEIFA has not addressed this issue publicly, and has done little to address the glut. A proposed 10-trap reduction was scuttled by DFO on the eve of the last federal election. Traps for votes. The lobster advisory board ignored trap reductions all together, and one of their proposals to start the season the last Monday in April, instead of April 30 and end on the traditional June 30, will, in some years, add as many as six days to the season. Not a smart way to end a glut. An early beginning should have meant an early closing as well.
Lower prices mean more fishing effort, larger traps, double hauling, illegal fishing and catching bait illegally to keep expenses lower. Fishermen on boat quotas resort to holding lobster without proper facilities, which, in turn, leads to poorer quality lobsters and headaches for processors.
Processing capacity on the Island is down by more than 100,000 pounds per day. Between 2007 and 2012 landings in the U.S. and Canada have increased by 63 per cent.
A reduction of 50 traps multiplied by the number of fishers 600 would mean the equivalent of 100 less gears on the water every day. This would help reduce the glut that processors can’t handle.
We seem to be intent on the status quo. Our greed may lead us to logbooks, dockside monitoring and ultimately a quota-based fishery. Let’s not find out.