Bigger is better in the lobster market: analyst
A seafood industry analyst says the Prince Edward Island government and the province's lobster fishermen should side with New Brunswick and increase the minimum size of lobsters.
New Brunswick and P.E.I. fishermen are locked in a dispute over a proposal to increase the minimum size of lobsters that can be caught in the Northumberland Strait.
New Brunswick fishermen are hoping to increase the minimum size of lobster that can be caught in Zone 25, which covers the waters between the two provinces, by five millimetres.
Island fishermen say the size should stay the same and any changes could devastate the province’s industry.
John Sackton is the editor of Seafood.com in Boston. He was consulted by Prince Edward Island on how best to manage its lobster industry.
"I feel my friends in P.E.I. are on the wrong side of history. We should not be fighting the last war," he wrote.
Sackton said by insisting on catching smaller, poorer quality lobsters the Island is focusing on the low end of the market.
"[It's] a sort of low-cost, throwaway type product. By throwaway I mean the supermarkets would promote them at very low prices to get people to come into their stores at Christmas time and so forth. You know the presentation of the lobsters is not that great, it's in this pack of ice, they're a small size, there's nothing romantic about it," he said.
He added that the cheapest, smaller lobsters are considered "trash" by some buyers.
Lobsters can only be caught now if the carapace is a minimum of 72 mm, but New Brunswick is proposing to have that raised to 73 mm and then eventually up to 77 mm.
But Prince Edward Island fishermen argue a change in a few millimetres could dramatically upend their industry.
Sackton said the lobster market is dying because buyers in the U.S., and Asia prefer bigger lobsters.
"The smallest lobsters are impossible to process for meat and tails profitably. The yield is too low relative to the labour," he wrote in his editorial.
He likened it to a car dealership trying to sell Chevrolets when the market was looking for Cadillacs.
Federal Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield will have to decide this year on whether or not to raise the minimum size of lobsters caught in the Northumberland Strait.
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