More lobster plant blockades planned by N.B. fishermen

Lobster fishermen in southeastern New Brunswick are planning to blockade processing plants again after a meeting of approximately 300 lobster fishermen this morning on the Richibucto wharf to discuss options for the upcoming fall fishing season.

Some told CBC News they're not going to set up their traps Thursday, which is the first day of the season.

Shipments of American lobster being processed in New Brunswick may be blocked as early as tomorrow, according to lobster fisherman, Maurice Martin.

"The processors are offering us $2.50 to $3 a pound for our market, and we cannot operate for that, so we are making a demand to close the season for a week," said Martin.

"We want to back the season for a week, we want to protest to the shops, we're [going to] close the shops again."

"Unless they give us $4 a pound, we're going to close the season, close the shop. We want $4 a pound. We cannot operate a fishing rig unless we got $4 a pound."

The Maritime Fishermen's Union had a deal with processors for a base price and extra compensation from the government..

But the fishermen say what the union and province agreed upon is not enough.

The deal was supposed to ensure fishermen wouldn't be left in the lurch, even as American lobster floods the market and drives prices down.

The deal included a base processing price of $2.50 for canners, $3 for market size, and something from the government.

Offer from province

Fisherman Blaine Daigle told CBC News the province offered $5,000, but that number isn't enough.

"The fishermen are not accepting it because when you calculate, it's not worth more than 25 cents a pound. So we might finish with $2.75? Unacceptable."

On Sunday, the province denied making a $5,000 offer.

"No commitments ... have been made by the provincial government. We will continue to negotiate with all related parties as long as processing plants are allowed to open Tuesday morning," said a news release from the office of Michael Olscamp, minister of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries.

"The processing sector has agreed to make sure all fish harvesters in New Brunswick are able to sell their catch locally."

The problem, Daigle says, is they're being expected to band the claws of the canning lobsters, which will cost each of them an extra worker.

Stephane Daigle is a fishermen's assistant.

He brought his two children to the meeting Sunday.

"I'm the only one working at home, so I'm the one supporting my family," he said. "And if I don't have a job right now, what am I supposed to do? I don't feel like going out west and leaving my family behind. But if I have to, I'll have no choice."

Sunday morning's meeting breaks a short-lived calm following two days of high tensions and protests, which saw fishermen blockading three lobster plant processors in the southeastern part of the province.

Eugene Robichaud, with the Maritime Fishermen's Union, was at Friday's negotiations, which included the MFU, the province and the processors.

"It's somewhat fair, but we can't say to the fishermen they have to accept that. We have to go to the members and they will decide. We've got to stand together and figure out a way that everybody will be happy at the end."

Olscamp also said his government was looking at new possible markets in Asia, and improved markets in Europe.

"Our government has little influence over lobster prices," the release said.

"Which depend on several factors, which include the dynamic between fishers, processing plants and clients; product supply and demand; the surprising increase in lobster catches during the past few years in Canada and the United States, the warming of the sea, which affects the moulting cycle of lobster and results in more soft lobster; the current state of the global economy; and the strong Canadian dollar."