By Tina Comeau
The province’s fisheries minister is clarifying recent remarks he made about a five-cent lobster levy saying when he spoke about the higher levy he neglected, at the time, to explain it is for a pilot project in an as-of-yet unannounced region.
Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Keith Colwell caught many in the lobster industry by surprise when he said legislation was being prepared for a five-cent lobster levy. This differed from a two-cent levy for every pound of lobster landed – harvesters and processors would each pay one cent – that was initially proposed by the Lobster Council of Canada and was later included as a recommendation in the Maritime Lobster Panel’s report.
Speaking about the higher levy last week, Colwell had told reporters two cents would go towards marketing with the other three cents targeted for quality. Many pounced on his remarks saying the industry was not consulted about an industry-wide five-cent levy.
On the flip side the industry has been consulted about the two-cent levy. The issue has come up at industry meetings in the past, and presentations were made when the Lobster Council of Canada was proposing the two-cent levy. In March participants at a Canadian Lobster Value Recovery Summit endorsed a two-cent Maritime levy.
Colwell now explains that Nova Scotia is committed to a two-cent per pound lobster levy on landings in this province to promote generic marketing and that it is also considering a quality project in one region of the province that would be supported by another levy.
The province has not disclosed the region being eyed for the pilot project, saying details of the quality project levy have not yet been finalized. A local rep with the LFA 34 Management Board tells this newspaper it is not LFA 34 that is being considered for the pilot. He was unaware of what region it is.
The provincial Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture says legislation to allow approval of the overall lobster marketing levy will be introduced in the fall.
Speaking about the potential pilot project with the higher levy, Colwell said on July 28, "We are also in discussions with representatives of a region of Nova Scotia about an additional, region-specific levy of three cents for a pilot project to support efforts to improve quality. Representatives of that region are receptive to the idea, but it has not been finalized and will not be adopted without their approval."
Should the pilot go forward, the results of the pilot project would be presented to industry before determining if it would expand to other regions.
Prior to Colwell clarifying that the higher levy would be applied to a pilot project, a former provincial fisheries minister said it would be wrong for Colwell and his department to impose a five-cent-a-pound levy on lobster landings without industry consent. Sterling Belliveau said votes need to be taken and a mandate must first be obtained. He also said for the sake of transparency, information must be provided on exactly what the money collected through a higher level would be used for and who would administer the money collected.