North Shore lobster fishermen frustrated by low buyer prices

Speculation on the wharf suggests prices will drop again this week

Published on June 6, 2014

BARRACHOIS WHARF – If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

Trueman Joudrie sits on the stern of his fishing boat, the Joudym, and pauses before responding to a reporter’s question about the state of this year’s lobster season.

“Excellent,” he says, of the lobster landings that have been ranging from 300 lbs. to 600 lbs per boat, per day at the Barrachois wharf. “This has been one of the best years for us for a long, long time.”

But therein lies the rub.

The catch tally may be up this year compared to past seasons, but the prices the lobster fisherman are receiving have dropped from $5 per lb. at the start of the season to $4.75 per lb. at the last accounting.

And Joudrie says the rumblings among the fishermen this week were predicting a further drop to $3.75 per lb. And those rates, he says, are simply not enough for fishermen to make ends meet.

“It just blows it all to hell if you want to know the truth,” he says, of bottom-line impact.

“When we’s tying to make a buck, we can’t make it. Nothing else goes down,” he says, of the fishermen’s fixed expenses. “The fuel don’t go down or the bait don’t go down or anything like that.

“If it was still $5 (per lb.) you could pay some bills and stuff but this way you can’t pay nothing.”

What adds to the fishermen’s frustration is the fact that their counterparts on the south shore were receiving as must as $7.50 per lb. earlier this year.

“If they can pay $7.50 to them why can’t they pay it to us?” he says.

Ron Heighton, president of the Northumberland Fishermen’s Association, said the fishermen are totally at the mercy of lobster prices when it comes to setting prices. Even to the point where they don’t even know how much they are going to receive on a given week’s take until they actually receive the payment the following week.

“They can put any price on it they want,” he says. “It’s very frustrating. If they are going to drop the price why don’t they tell us about it? And tell us the reason why.”

Heighton says the total control held by the buyers combined with the lack of communication to the fishermen creates a lack of trust that ultimately breeds ill will.

And Heighton suggests the current system, created by buyer collusion and a lack of competition will not change until the fishermen can come up with a marketing strategy that will create more demand for the lobster, which in turn will help to drive up the wharf prices.

“It takes pretty much $5 (per lb.) for a break-even point,” he said. “They’re not treating us fairly.”

Lobster buyer Paul Logan of North Nova Seafoods in Caribou, did not return a call for comment on Friday.

Twitter: @tdnharry