Lobster fishing vessels. (Photo: Stock File)
Lobster fishers target DFO
Friday, August 10, 2012, 01:30 (GMT + 9)
One hundred Canadian lobster fishers staged another protest in New Brunswick mid-week targeting the office of the federal Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) Minister Keith Ashfield in Fredericton as they tried to keep cheap Maine lobster out of Canadian processing plants ahead of the Canadian lobster season that begins next week.
Ashfield promised the protesters a meeting on Friday.
"They can't take it anymore," said Christian Brun, a spokesperson for the Maritime Fishermen's Union, The Associated Press reports. "They're going to go bankrupt and everybody's on the edge."
Lobster processors in New Brunswick agreed late last week to pay a minimum of CAD 2.50 (USD 2.51) per lb for processed lobster and CAD 3 (USD 3.01) per lb for live market lobster. But Brun said the province’s fishers need to get at least CAD 4 per lb (USD 4.01) for both fresh and processed lobster just to break even.
The union was hoping to get compensation from the New Brunswick government to make up for the difference. But provincial Fisheries Minister Michael Olscamp refused that request.
"We're not in the game of bridging gaps in salaries where people are paid for product," he said. "It would set a very dangerous precedent."
Meanwhile, US Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine has asked US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to investigate the protests.
"While I understand that the New Brunswick government is attempting to control these protests, it is clear that additional Canadian resources are necessary to maintain order and ensure continued commerce across the border," Snowe wrote in a letter to Clinton. "Any acts of intimidation, violence, or coercion cannot be tolerated and order must be maintained to ensure that our relationship with our Canadian partners does not undermine our long-term collaborative relationship on critical fisheries and maritime issues.”
In the US, Maine's Commissioner of the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) Pat Keliher said most Canadian lobster processing plants have closed because of the dispute and could stay closed into the weekend. As 70 per cent of the lobster landed in Maine is processed in Canada, he said the state is trying to get the federal government to ensure US lobster can be processed.
Keliher said the US needs Canadian officials to take action and fight the Canadian lobster fishers' demands for subsidies, WCSH6 reports.
"The Royal Canadian Mounted police need to start arresting people," Keliher said. "If they're going to be problematic, if they're going to be breaking the law, they need to be arrested and our products need to be delivered safely to those processors."
Maine Governor Paul LePage is arguing that there should be more processing capacity in the state. Canada has 24 lobster processors, he said, while Maine has only three, Bangor Daily News reports.
- New Brunswick tries to negotiate with lobster fishers
- Fishers protest cheap American lobster imports
By Natalia Real