Canadian Lobster Fishers Unified in Protest of Low Prices

“Shame on us if we’re in the same position next spring.”

– Gulf Nova Scotia Bonafide Fishermen’s Association President Dan MacDougall

In northern Nova Scotia, Canada, lobster fishers–some 400 of them–tied up their boats today in protest of dwindling prices for lobster. The regional price has dropped to below $4 a pound and gone as low as $3.75 for “canners,” which is too low to be profitable, most say, given the cost of fuel, labor and bait.

On 1 May, the start of the season in Northumberland Strait, the price paid at the wharf for market-sized lobsters was $4.75 per pound, down $.25 from what the fishers were expecting. Some lobster fishers in Quebec, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick joined the protest, which, by most accounts, is unprecedented in its show of solidarity. According to one source, 2,000 boats in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Northern Nova Scotia were tied up in protest.

It is expected that Nova Scotia lobster fishers will be back on the water tomorrow after believing their protest has secured a meeting between the Province’s fisheries minister, area representatives and buyers. On Sunday, Nova Scotia Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Sterling Belliveau committed to setting up the meeting. Tonight he assured the fishers he was committed to “a solution” to the problem of low prices. The decision to return to the water on Tuesday was supported by a 196-52 (56) vote of captains who were in favor of returning to fishing based on Belliveau’s comments.

While many lobster fishers say $5 per pound would be a fair price, they have indicated a willingness to accept less–as long as it’s better than the $3.75/$4 they are currently being offered. At a meeting tonight to discuss the issue with Belliveau, several fishers questioned why the U.S. lobster fishery has not been part of the discussion. International tensions flared last spring when too many lobsters flooded the U.S. market and Canadian processors experienced protests and even blockades by Canadian fishers who said they could not compete with the low prices of lobsters imported from the U.S. Traditionally, more than half of the lobsters landed in Maine go to Canada for processing.

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About Ret Talbot

Ret Talbot is a freelance writer who covers fisheries at the intersection of science and sustainability. His work has appeared in publications such as National Geographic, Mongabay, Discover Magazine, Ocean Geographic and Coral Magazine. He lives on the coast of Maine with his wife, scientific illustrator Karen Talbot.
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