© Julie Collins - TC MEDIA
Stephen Brezuk, an employee of Kaiser Marine, unloads lobster crates at the wharf in South Bar, Cape Breton. File
An abundance of lobster in areas of the province has presented continued challenges for Cape Breton buyers and fishermen.
According to Victoria Cooperative Fisheries manager Osbourne Burke, the federal government, Fisheries and Oceans and the industry itself have to take a serious look at when seasons open and close.
Referring to record catches in May in Lobster Fishing Areas (LFA) 33 and 34 in Southwest Nova, Burke said, combined with a six-month season, it's what is killing the lobster fishery in Cape Breton.
"Here (in Cape Breton) fishermen have a two- month window to make or break their season. When you talk about the large quantity of lobster, we've got lobster in Southwest Nova being put on the market at fire sale prices that don't give our fishermen a hope in hell of having a decent season."
Burke said the seasons overlap, adding that this is causing a major crisis in the lobster industry on the island.
"Our inventory is building up like everyone else's, but we have the processing plant which provides us with an opportunity to process a certain percentage of our lobster."
Burke said, if the Southwest Nova season was ending when the LFA Area 27 season was beginning, it would would allow a better distribution of lobster into the market, and a better price for everybody.
"Everyone is talking about the levy and marketing dollars, which is great. We need to make our concerns known to the fisheries minister before decisions are made on any changes to seasons,.
He said raising the carapace size this year is a good investment for the future in maintaining conservation and a healthy stock.
Blair Martell, a buyer from L'Ardoise, agreed that overproduction of the season in Areas 33 and 34 has overlapped into Area 27.
"The market has diminished because of the oversupply coming from Areas 33 and 34 in the month of May."
Martell said his facilities are at a capacity with respect to storage.
"We are at the point where we've got to sell to the market and it's not working out that well," he said. "There are lots of people that wouldn’t be working if we weren’t here. The fishery is a mainstay."
Stewart Lamont, managing director of Tangier Lobster Company Ltd. on the Eastern Shore said the company has a worldwide clientele.
"The industry and our company in particular, has clientele that is watching what is taking place in Atlantic Canada very carefully with respect to lobster," said Lamont. "If we talk about a glut that leaves us in a greater position of vulnerability, I'm trying to be more responsible in that regard. It's a positive spin on a challenging situation, it's only temporary, but at this moment it is challenging."
Lamont said a better job has to be done on a week-to-week basis of matching prices that are paid for the resource, versus the catch.
"We have all kinds of external factors that influence what companies want to pay for the resource," he said. "This spring, relative to the volume of the catch both in in Southwest Nova Scotia, here on the Eastern Shore and in Cape Breton, I think we've paid more than the market would really bear for the volume we've produced; that's the kind of thing we need to look at in the short term."
This year Tangier has exported lobster to such large urban centres as Calgary, Vancouver, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Seoul, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
"I'm a proponent of generic marketing around the world, our company targets the international market, exporting to 19 countries," Lamont said. "As Canadians exporting a premium quality lobster, which the Cape Breton catch is, we need to do more in generic marketing around the world to educate consumers and make markets, particularly Asia and most particularly China, more familiar with the quailties associated with Canadian lobster."
Lamont, who is on the Lobster Council of Canada, promotes quality grading, brand awareness, generic marketing and a mandatory levy to help expand marketing world-wide.