Pinkney's Point Wharf: last day of the lobster season. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
By Tina Comeau
The man tasked to facilitate a process with the lobster industry to see if there was an appetite to put in place tools that might influence a better price says although at the end of the process the majority of LFA 34 licence holders voted for no changes, the exercise was not for naught.
“It was a democratic process,” says Greg Roach, a former provincial deputy fisheries minister, who had been appointed for the task by federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea.
“The licence harvesters are all independent businesses. They’re big boys. There is still a very strong group that believe changes can be made that would have a positive influence on the industry and I’m sure those folks are disappointed in the vote,” Roach says. “But there are people that believe that even with the changes it wouldn’t have changed things, that’s where the debate raged.”
Following three weeks of voting on a ballot, of those who voted the majority of licence holders were against a delay to the start of the season in the fall (53.2 per cent against) and against any trap reduction for the next two seasons (69 per cent against).
As a result of the vote, the recommendation Roach is forwarding to the fisheries minister is to maintain the status quo, meaning a Nov. 24 opening with 375 traps.
Of those that were in favour of a season delay, the majority wanted to see the opening delayed by one week.
Roach isn’t surprised by the overall outcome of the vote. He knew there was strong interest amongst a large number of licence holders to keep the status quo.
“That was clear and I ensured that the option was on the ballot,” he says.
“There were people that actively wanted to ensure that no changes were made. So I think those folks spoke a lot amongst themselves and got their like-minded colleagues to go out and vote,” adds Roach. “I think the area that was strongest for keeping status quo had the largest turnout of the vote.”
Overall the vote saw a turnout of 74.5 per cent, meaning 733 of the 984 licence voters voted. Although the Yarmouth area had the highest number of licence holders, the largest turnout was at the polling station at the Barrington DFO office, which saw an 86 per cent turnout of the licence holders considered to fall within that region.
Still, in the Yarmouth area there was around 70 per cent turnout.
Roach is very pleased with the number of licence holders that participated in the vote.
And considering the anger and confusion that resulted from an industry vote carried out last year, he feels that no matter if people are happy or unhappy with the outcome of the vote, they should be satisfied with how the process played out this time.
“This was a fairly intensive process and it was carried out to ensure it was done fairly and that there could be no complaints that it was manipulated, that there were last-minute changes or that there was no time to vote,” he says.
As for what lies ahead for the industry, no one, including Roach, could make that prediction – regardless of what the outcome of the vote was going to be.