Provincial loan to help reduce number of fall lobster licences in P.E.I.
Fewer fall fishers?
By Eric McCarthy
FOR THE SOU’WESTER
Transcontinental Media/Journal Pioneer
WEST POINT, P.E.I. – The Prince County Fishermen Association’s lobster rationalization committee now has funds available to help Prince Edward Island fall lobster fishers exit the industry.
The provincial government announced on July 24 it is making a $600,000 low interest loan available to the committee to assist with the exit strategy in LFA 25.
LFA 25 includes fishing ports between North Cape and Victoria along the Northumberland Strait.
Neil LeClair, minister of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Rural Development, said the loan should enable the committee to bank up to 30 licences prior to the start of the fall fishery in August. “I was so happy,” PCFA president Shelton Barlow said when informed of the government’s decision. The announcement was made during the Liberal caucus meeting in West Point. He and three other members of the association accepted an invitation to meet with the caucus unaware that a decision on their request for a loan had been reached. “We’ve been working on this for a long time; working on a plan, trying to put things together.”
The association believes reducing the number of participants in the fishery is key to improving catches. The loan ties in with the provincial government’s five-point plan announced earlier this year, and piggybacks onto the federal government’s Atlantic lobster sustainability measures.
The rationalization committee has been working with the federal government to devise a lobster buyback program for Lobster Fishing Area 25, but with the fall season rapidly approaching and the funding still not in place, the province offered a loan to get things started.
Barlow said the rationalization committee has compiled a list of 52 fishers who have expressed interest in getting out of the fishery. “The funding provided…is an initial step to support the fishery in this area,” said LeClair. “The funds are being delivered with the understanding that an agreement of federal funding is pending for future efforts to sustain the fishery in this area.”
The loan would provide approximately $20,000 to each fisher who agrees to bank their lobster licence for this year, Barlow suggested, but he pointed out they would have to sign an agreement to sell out and retire their lobster licence once the federal funds become available. He remains optimistic federal funding will be on the table before fall fishers set their gear.
Barlow said it shows that the provincial government regards the fishers as an industry and is willing to lend a hand.