By Eric McCarthy
FOR THE SOU’WESTER
The president of the Prince County Fishermen’s Association says he can’t blame lobster fishermen in New Brunswick for standing in favour of further carapace increases.
“If their processors, who are buying their lobsters, are telling them they are not going to buy them, what choice do they have?” said Lee Knox. But he is adamant the push for size increases on the Northumberland Strait is really coming from the processors who buy their catches and has nothing to do with conservation or sustainability.
Island fishermen stormed out of a lobster advisory group meeting in New Brunswick on Jan. 23 because they felt they were blindsided by a New Brunswick presentation. Knox said PEI was only advised late Jan. 21 by DFO that the 9 a.m. meeting in Moncton was to be an advisory meeting. He said there were first supposed to be two working group meetings to discuss different presentations.
“When we walked in there, they had a consultant hired to do a presentation for (processors, Maritime Fishermen’s Union and the New Brunswick government), and recommendations from this meeting were going straight to the minister,” Knox said.
The lobster grounds for LFA 25 takes in both sides of Northumberland Strait, including fishermen in parts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and the south shore of Western PEI. Fishermen throughout LFA 25, as well as PEI spring fishermen in LFA 24 and 26A are scheduled to see the minimum carapace size increase from 71 to 72 mm this year and stay there. New Brunswick, however, is pushing for the measure to go to 73 mm this year, 75 mm in 2014 and stop at 77 mm in 2015. PEI representatives resisted efforts to have a position on carapace size formulated on Jan. 23 and were subsequently given until Feb. 6 to have a presentation ready. An advisory meeting will follow, probably on Feb. 13.
“It was miscommunication. They (New Brunswick representatives) had more information about the meeting than we did. It wasn’t done properly. When you have a proper meeting with DFO there’s protocol that’s supposed to be followed, and it wasn’t followed,” Knox insisted. He was part of a fishermen delegation that met Jan. 24 with Egmont MP Gail Shea.
“She understands that the pressure is coming from the six processing plants in New Brunswick. It has nothing to do with rationalization or conservation,” Knox noted.
Knox said PEI fishermen are going to stand their ground.
“LFA 25 is just a very small percentage of the industry of lobsters. That little change that they are trying to make, that is going to be devastating to the fishermen, is not going to change industry for a better price. They won’t even guarantee us we’d get five cents more if we go up to 77 mm,” he said.