09/07/2013 12:43 EDT | Updated 11/07/2013 05:12 EST

Canadian lobster industry faces tough U.S. competition

The state of Maine is poised to take a bite out of the Canadian lobster market, warns a P.E.I. MLA.

Colin LaVie, the Opposition fisheries critic, said he’s concerned that Maine has boosted its lobster marketing budget 600 per cent in recent months, to more than $2.2 million.

LaVie said fisheries minister Ron MacKinley isn't acting quickly enough.

"The governor of Maine has recognized that the fishery's important down there and he's looking after the fishery and he's also creating jobs down there,” he said.

“Our competitors, which is Maine, see the potential. I'm going to make sure minister MacKinley looks after our fishery. It's very important in the past, it's very important now and it's going to be very, very important into the future."

MacKinley attended fisheries meetings in Quebec this week. He said that the message that he took away from the meetings is that the survival of rural communities is key to success of the fishing industry.

"In another 15 years there's going to be a major scarce of fishing products. We have to look at making sure that we have people there to continue on because there seems to be a movement away from people going into the fishery business,” he said.

“And that's what we, you know, we have to make sure that we as government have policies there to protect them and also to help them with marketing."

Demand for Canadian seafood is expected to grow in coming decades. MacKinley said that means a boost in exports, including P.E.I. shellfish and New Brunswick farmed salmon.

Ron McKinley said marketing is a key part of a new report to be released next month by the Atlantic Lobster Panel.

$1-billion industry

The federal Fisheries Department said $4.1 billion worth of Canadian seafood landed on tables in more than 100 countries last year, with lobster remaining the most valuable export.

More than 60 per cent of Canada's seafood exports were shipped to the United States in 2012 at a value of $2.6 billion.

But the department said China and the European Union remain major markets, each taking in hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Canadian seafood products last year.

Aside from lobster — which accounted for $1 billion of Canada's overall seafood exports last year — the department said snow and queen crab, Atlantic salmon and shrimp were among the country's most valuable.

New Brunswick was Canada's largest exporter of seafood last year, with exports valued at $967.2 million, followed by Nova Scotia at $915.4 million and British Columbia at $871.5 million.

The department said some 80,000 people work in the industry, including commercial fishing, aquaculture and processing.