By Andy Walker
FOR THE SOU’WESTER
There has been a great deal of discussion about a sustainable lobster fishery over the last several years, but Mike McGeoghegan maintains the emphasis must now shift to “sustainable fishermen.”
“The long and the short of it is you can’t have a sustainable fishery with fishermen getting the kind of prices they were this year,” said the president of the PEI Fishermen’s Association. “What happened this year was nothing short of ridiculous.”
Many people taking part in the fall fishery hauled their traps before the mid-October closure as prices reached a low of $2.50 for canners and $2.75 for market lobster. McGeoghegan said at those prices, fishermen were losing money every time they went on the water.
“Five years ago, we were getting over $5 for canners and our expenses have gone up considerably since then,” he said.
The veteran fisherman has seen the impacts of the downturn first-hand. He retired his licence this year as part of an effort to reduce the number of people in the fishery. McGeoghegan has also seen his two sons, who are both in the fishery, head to the oil fields of Alberta every time prices plummet.
“They don’t like it out there but they need the money,” he said. “This is not how we build our rural communities.”
“The long and the short of it is you can’t have a sustainable fishery with fishermen getting the kind of prices they were this year. What happened this year was nothing short of ridiculous.” Mike McGeoghegan, PEIFA president
The association has launched a study to explore ways to raise prices for next season. In addition to polling its membership, the association is also polling a cross-section of Islanders on their perception of the industry.
“My personal opinion is the consumer already pays a good price for lobster at the grocery store,” the association president said. “I think we have to make them more aware of just how little of that goes to the fishermen – there are just too many middlemen.”
An advisory group has been established in LFA 25 (the fall fishery along the south shore) with representatives from fishermen, processors and the provincial government. The association president said he is hoping the combined efforts will result in higher prices next season.
He said the rural depopulation of PEI and other areas of the country will have a major impact on food sovereignty and food security. While primary industries like fishing and farming are often put on the backburner in favour of so call high technology or resource sectors McGeoghan said, “The long and the short of it is you can’t eat computers or drink oil.”