Lobster a hard sell in Cape Breton

With millions of dollars of the crustacean being held in live storage, fishermen are expected to tie up boats

Staff ~ The Cape Breton Post comments@cbpost.com
Published on June 3, 2014
Stephen Brezuk, an employee of Kaiser Marine, unloads lobster crates at the wharf in South Bar.
TC Media - Cape Breton Post

SYDNEY — Millions of dollars worth of lobster is being held in lobster fishing area 27 due to a glut in the market.

Jimmy Kennedy of Louisbourg Seafoods, who has been in the business of buying lobster since 1983, said there is lobster being kept in live storage in every port from Bay St. Lawrence to Gabarus.

"I haven't seen this happen before in my time. There is that many lobster that we can't even get crates to hold them," Kennedy said. "I'd say that for just myself, I'm probably sitting on about $1.7 million worth of lobster. I wouldn't be shy to say there there is $10 to $12 million in lobsters floating right now in Cape Breton. Buyers have them bought, but can't sell them."

He said if he can't get crates, he won't be buying Tuesday, adding that it is the same for small and large buyers.

"They aren't moving for anyone, this is serious. Hopefully, Father's Day will do something and the market will get better in the U.S. It's going to take a little while for this to get cleaned up."

If buyers can't sell to the processing plants, there is nowhere to put the lobster.

Kennedy said it isn't about price.

He attributes some of the problem to record catches in Southwest Nova Scotia.

"Everyone up there bought enough of their own lobsters so they aren't looking for any Cape Breton lobsters this year," he said. "It's not like this is just one person — 99 per cent of the people can't move lobsters."

Kennedy, whose market is primarily in the United States, blames some of the problem to the federal government's position on foreign workers.

"Processors are only doing 40 or 50 per cent capacity of what they did last year because the government won't let the foreign workers in," he said.

Kennedy said he expects the market will eventually improve.

"We all sell to processing plants, everyone is on the horn trying to sell their product. I'm taking it one day at a time, but we have to get our foreign workers back into the plants."