Lobster protests seem to be simmering down

Posted Wednesday, August 8, 2012 in News

Lobster protests seem to be simmering down

CALAIS — Maine officials are hoping for a resolution to a simmering dispute in New Brunswick after Canadian lobstermen blocked shipments of low-priced Maine lobsters to processing plants in their country.

New Brunswick fishermen last week blockaded several processing plants, forcing them to close and shipments containing tens of thousands of pounds of lobsters to be sent back to Maine.

At issue is the low cost of lobster in Maine. Lobster is selling off the boat for about $2 per pound, which is less than the cost per pound in New Brunswick. This encourages canneries to purchase from strapped Maine lobstermen, who are unable to sell their catch for higher prices locally.

Maine and the Canadian Maritimes have had a glut of lobster this summer following strong harvests in the spring and early summer. The glut has driven down prices for both fishermen and consumers.

New Brunswick fishermen last Thursday staged demonstrations outside processing plants in Shediac and Cap-Pele. Fishermen are blaming inexpensive Maine lobsters for driving down prices in Canada just days before the lobster-fishing season begins in those towns.

An agreement announced Friday calls for lobster-processing plants to pay lobstermen at least $2.50 per pound for lobsters that are processed and $3 per pound for live-market lobsters.

Maine lobster dealers for the most part have found other Canadian processors to ship to, said Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher, who was in contact over the weekend and on Monday with New Brunswick Fisheries Minister Michael Olscamp.

"The concern is that it becomes widespread," Keliher said. "If a majority of processors in Canada weren't taking lobster then we'd end up with a backlog of product, and that'd be bad."

Olscamp issued a statement Sunday saying processors have agreed to make sure all fishermen are able to sell their catch locally, but he also denied reports that the provincial government is planning to compensate fishermen for the low prices. One radio report erroneously reported that the New Brunswick government would pay each lobsterman $5,000, he said.

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