By Steve Sharratt
FOR THE SOU’WESTER
When a PEI lobster being cooked up at a Chinese trade fair was identified as coming from “Boston,” Ian MacPherson realized the road to seafood promotion became a lot longer.
“Add in that the people also thought Boston was a part of Canada, and you can see what we’re up against,’’ said the general manager of the PEI Fisherman’s Association.
So when MacPherson went to Cape Breton with Souris fisherman Peter Boertien to attend the recent Lobster Council of Canada meetings, he was particularly delighted when the establishment of a long awaited branding program to grade and market Canadian lobster was endorsed.
“It’s good to see this effort move forward to concentrate on branding and quality, but the third component we all hope will follow will be increased price,’’ he said.
PEI broke records this year in lobster landings with almost 25 million pounds coming ashore. However, while the price spiked a bit for the spring fishery, it was absolutely dismal – less than $3 – for the fall fishery. Fishermen are struggling to make payments and many have gone west looking for work to augment their annual income.
“The industry took a major step forward last week during meetings in Cheticamp when the council agreed to begin work on establishing a quality standard system and a branding program for Canadian lobster,” said Geoff Irvine, executive director of the council based in Halifax.
“These two initiatives are part of the recommendations brought forward on three key pillars of action – quality, price and brand.”
Lobster Council chairman Leonard LeBlanc said the Cheticamp summit turned the page from talking about solutions to committing to action.
“Great things can happen in small places. As a group we have achieved the first step to modernizing the lobster industry and I believe that this is a giant leap forward.”
The Lobster Council will establish two task groups to work with the lobster industry on these initiatives during the coming months.
“There’s no guarantee but we have a lot of competitors and have to get our brand out there,’’ he said. “Especially when people are not identifying it correctly.”
Already the Maine lobster industry is taking great strides to identify its product and MacPherson said PEI can’t stand in the shadows.
“While we’re all pleased to market Canadian lobster, we’re also going to promote our own special assets as well,’’ he said.
MacPherson said more and more generations are removed from the fishery and Canada has such a cultural diversity that lobster is not commonplace on the menu.
Delegates at Cheticamp supported a strong industry structure, based on brand pillars such as sustainability, pristine environment, and quality that could be promoted and supported by the lobster sector.