02/19/2015 02:14 EST | Updated 04/21/2015 05:59 EDT

Nova Scotia fisheries minister hopes to have lobster fee agreement by fall

HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's fisheries minister hopes a proposed levy to support a marketing strategy for the lobster industry can be in place by the fall.

Keith Colwell says he believes the fisheries sector will support the levy because all involved understand that marketing and lobster quality has to be improved.

The levy, proposed in a 2013 report, would see fishermen and the onshore side of the industry, such as buyers and processors, each pay one cent per pound of lobster caught to cover the cost of advertising campaigns and other promotional initiatives.

The proposal has been a sore point on Nova Scotia's southwest shore, where Colwell says lobster buyers and many fishermen are opposed. Winning over the area's fishery is key because it accounts for 40 per cent of the country's total catch.

"We've talked to the buyers before in the area," said Colwell. "They're not opposed to paying but they don't like the one cent levy and that's one reason why we've gone out to talk to the industry."

One of the suggestions under discussion is a licence fee, which he said buyers would agree to under certain conditions. Colwell didn't elaborate, but he added that he's not wedded to the levy.

"We will look into whatever fee structure works," he said.

The minister also noted that much of the industry wants input into how a fee would be collected and ultimately spent.

The majority of the industry would have to agree for the marketing initiative to work, Colwell said.

Consultations are set to wrap up in a couple of weeks.

The levy would be used across the Maritimes. It was proposed in 2013 to help the lobster industry, which at that time was struggling with low prices.