NEWS

N.B. urged to abandon lobster fishermen compensation

08/08/2012 08:28 EDT | Updated 10/08/2012 05:12 EDT
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is urging the New Brunswick government not to bail out lobster fishermen, who are protesting a glut of cheap American lobster.

On Friday, Fisheries Minister Michael Olscamp promised to provide compensation after days of protests outside processing plants.

But Kevin Lacey, Atlantic director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, is calling on the government to abandon those plans.

"I think there's a point to be made here about American lobster coming to New Brunswick plants. I think that's a fair issue for the fishermen to protest," Lacey said.

"I think where our organization sits is that we don't want to see the government subsidize the industry," he said.

"The province has undergone a very difficult last two years. Taxpayers in the province have suffered under a high inflation and low wage growth. And many businesses have suffered in this economy.

"And it sets a bad precedent that now, the province is looking to bail out lobster fishermen when so many others are suffering."

Offer rejected, season delayed

On Tuesday, the Maritime Fisheries Union rejected an undisclosed compensation offer by the provincial government.

The fishermen say they won’t hit the water until they get a better price for their landings.

Talks between the union and the fisheries minister continue. But union president Christian Brun told CBC News he was extremely disappointed after two hours of talks with Olscamp on Tuesday.

"We're at the mercy of the American markets and our premier is accepting that,” Brun said.

“We would implore the premier to explain what his position is.”

A glut of cheap lobster from Maine has flooded the market, driving the price down to about $2 per pound, a 30-year low.

Processors say they could pay fishermen $2.50 per pound for canners and $3 for market lobster, but the fishermen say they need at least $4 to survive.

Olscamp said he's disappointed the offer was refused.

"I thought maybe that offer would provide the opportunity to open more doors. And as a result of it being refused, I'm disappointed to say the least, yes.”

Still, the minister hopes a new committee can work on longstanding issues affecting the industry. The committee could begin as early as next week, he said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has agreed to delay the season on the Northumberland Strait, scheduled to start Thursday, until Monday.

Protests continue

Protests continued Tuesday on the Acadian Peninsula, with nearly 200 fishermen having set up a blockade at a processing plant in Neguac.

They say while southeastern processing plants have stopped processing cheap American lobster, northern processors now are.

Last week, fishermen set up blockades and closed several fish processing plants in the southeast, in some cases tractor trailer loads of Maine lobster couldn't unload and had to turn around.

A P.E.I. lobster plant reached a deal with local fishermen who launched a blockade Tuesday morning over a dispute about processing lobster from Maine.

Island fishermen have agreed that the South Shore Seafood plant can complete the processing of lobster currently in the plant, and the owners have agreed not to bring in any more for now.

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