POLITICS

Bill would allow collection of lobster levy once Nova Scotia fishermen decide

04/20/2015 03:18 EDT | Updated 07/11/2015 02:59 EDT
HALIFAX - A lobster marketing levy on sales still isn't in place in Nova Scotia but the government would be allowed to collect such a fee under legislation it introduced on Monday.

Fisheries Minister Keith Colwell said a change to the Fisheries and Coastal Resources Act would enable the province to collect a financial contribution through regulations once the industry decides what form it will take.

But Colwell said there is still no consensus among lobster fishermen on the implementation of a levy. Any solution would ultimately be industry driven, he added.

Lobster fishermen in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island have agreed to the collection of a marketing levy, which was first proposed in 2013.

It would see fishermen and the onshore side of the industry, such as buyers and processors, each pay one cent on every pound of lobster caught to cover the cost of advertising campaigns and other promotional initiatives.

Colwell said it's important to get some sort of mechanism in place in Nova Scotia.

"At the present time we are selling every lobster we can possibly get at a very high price," he said. "Unfortunately, that could change at any time."

The levy proposal has been met with resistance on Nova Scotia's southwest shore. Winning over the area's fishery is key because it accounts for 40 per cent of the country's total catch.

Progressive Conservative Chris d'Entremont said the legislation's lack of specifics on such things as the size of a potential fee is a problem for fishermen with a reputation for being fiercely independent.

"It doesn't give them (fishermen) any latitude to actually do something so this is going to be dead in the water," said d'Entremont.

The NDP's Sterling Belliveau was also dismissive, saying fishermen will need to see clear regulations on a fee and who can collect it before there is any movement in support of the measure.