Lobster levy gets initial approval

Staff ~ The Guardian
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CHARLOTTETOWN - A lobster levy to create a slush fund for marketing the king of seafood has earned overwhelming support in a test vote from Prince Edward Island fishermen, with hopes it could raise $250,000 for marketing.

Rosie the lobster.

In the test vote, fishermen in Lobster Fishing Area (LFA) 24, from Tignish to North Lake, gave overwhelming support.

“This was just a test zone to identify some opinion,’’ said Mike McGeoghegan, president of the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association (PEIFA). “But based on these findings, we are now talking about an Island-wide vote to see what we get.”

The penny a pound levy has been hotly debated over the winter after Maritime lobster fishermen tied up their boats last spring in protest and refused to fish for the two weeks because of dismal prices.

P.E.I. fishermen landed more than 25 million pounds of lobster last year, which would quickly raise an annual provincial slush fund of over $250,000.

Low prices over the past seven years have led some fishermen to leave the industry, while others have been leaving through buyouts from a federal rationalization program.

“A levy would generate a big pot of money, but exactly where that penny a pound would end up, or how it would be used, is in discussion,’’ said McGeoghegan.

The subject will likely be one topic on the agenda of the PEIFA annual convention to be held at the Delta Prince Edward in Charlottetown this weekend.

The survey revealed a 75 per cent approval rate from north side fishermen to the one cent per pound levy as tallied up from the 309 questionnaires returned. Officials said this was a test and the levy would not be adopted until all fishermen participate in a province wide vote.

The Lobster Council of Canada has been advocating a penny a pound levy for all Canadian lobster which, at more than 150 million pounds from all three provinces, would generate upwards of a $1.5 million marketing budget.

However, McGeoghegan said it is still unclear whether the penny levy funds would be administered by each fishing association, like the PEIFA, or through the Lobster Council.

Organizations: PEIFA, Delta Prince Edward

Geographic location: Lobster Fishing Area, Tignish, North Lake P.E.I. Fishermen Iceland Charlottetown

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