ANDY WALKER: Fishery largely ignored during P.E.I. legislative session

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The fishery was largely ignored by both the government and opposition during the recent fall session of the P.E.I. legislature.

The industry rated just two paragraphs in the Speech from the Throne which opened the proceedings in mid-November. It talked about the challenges facing the lobster sector due to low prices and the success of the five point lobster plan that stressed marketing and rationalization.   It also indicated the low interest program would continue for another year. On the aquaculture front, there was a promise of additional financial help to combat evasive species.

However, the government announced little in the way of specifics regarding the cost of the loan extension or new aquaculture money. That will like come in next spring’s budget. There will be an election on P.E.I. next year (Oct. 3 to be exact) so it is likely to be a “good news” document. However, whether there will be any financial goodies for the fisheries industry remains to be seen.

The opposition largely ignored the province’s third largest industry during the 16 day session. In total, there were just six fisheries related questions asked – all on the same topic and all asked on the last day before a four-month break.

The topic was lobster marketing and the exchange between opposition fisheries critic Jim Bagnall and Fisheries Minister Neil LeClair was hardly a barn-burner.  Bagnall argued the fact lobster prices were at a 15-year low meant the marketing efforts had failed.

He said David McGuire, who was hired as the seafood marketing officer, is the wrong person for the job since he is not eligible to travel in the United States – the biggest market for Island lobster. Predictably LeClair defended the department’s employee saying “he’s doing a great job of it, and he’s certainly putting our product out there on shelves from here right square to China.

Wherever they eat we want to put lobster, and certainly it’s working.”

LeClair told the fisheries critic 2011 will see more of the same in terms of lobster marketing. He added, “We’ve entertained people from Henan province in China. We’ve entertained delegates from Russia, Scotland, Ireland. We’ve entertained delegates here on the Island and we put trade missions across the United States and across the world, and we’ll continue to do that because it is

working.”

LeClair is predicting next year will see significant improvement for the sector as the world economic situation begins to improve. He added, “We’re now in a position to reap great benefits for the industry.”

The opposition also put notices of motions forward calling for more funding for evasive species  and help for the Island’s primary industries of fishing and farming. However, they were not called forward for debate and they will remain on the order paper for the spring session, which begins in April.

Geographic location: P.E.I., Iceland, United States Henan China Russia Scotland Ireland

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