By Tina Comeau
Hundreds of fishermen who attended a meeting in Yarmouth on Wednesday, Jan 11 were told to stay the course and not sell their lobsters until the price climbs to $5.50 a pound.
Still, many fishermen in the room said not only shouldn’t fishermen be selling the lobsters that are being landed, but fishermen should tie up their boats and not go fishing until the price situation improves.
The meeting was organized by a newly-formed lobster fishing association started up by Shelburne County businessman and former fisherman James Mood. This meeting was a follow-up to one on Jan. 4 in Barrington, which was held to see if there was interest in forming an association. Judging by the attendance at the Jan. 11 meeting in Yarmouth, the interest exists.
“Get up here, get up here,” Mood said, pointing to the few empty chairs inside the room at the Grand Hotel prior to the start of the meeting. “I guess they’re not going to listen to me,” he said as fishermen stood at the back of the room.
But fishermen were there to listen to Mood and what he told them was fishermen are to blame for the low prices they’ve been receiving for their catches.
“Because you went fishing without a minimum price,” he told them. Fishermen knew they might only get $3.25 or $3.50 for their lobsters, yet when the season started they went fishing anyway, Mood said.
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“You went lobstering when it was down, and you took your crewmembers and didn’t make them any money,” said Mood. “Who is going to clean the mess up? You guys are going to have to clean it up. If you give me the mandate we’ll clean it up. And it’s your choice if you want to or not.”
He all but guaranteed them that if they hold off on selling their lobsters they’ll get a price of $5.50.
“Give it five to six days,” he said, adding, however, that if it doesn’t work and fishermen want to go one step further by putting a halt to fishing, then that’s something that can be voted on.
Still, no one is going to be forced to do anything, Mood said. Fishermen will make the choice of how far they are willing to go for their industry.
But even in saying that, the message at the meeting was a united front is a forceful front.
Mood is blunt and tells it like it is, even when he called for a smoke break partway through the meeting. “Who smokes here?” he said, adding, “Don’t you know it’ll kill ya!”
Mood said he “won’t take bull crap from anyone.” And neither should fishermen, he said. And neither should the hired men on the back of the boat.
Aside from holding back their catch, Mood said if fishermen find out that a dealer is offering a higher price than their own dealer is, then fishermen have a duty to insist that their dealer offer that same higher price.
The association is being called the 1688 Professional Lobster Fishermen's Association. The number 1688 refers to the number of licences in lobster fishing areas 33 and 34. Mood said the goal is to reach a membership of 80 per cent of licence holders and 80 per cent of crewmembers. Numbers like this, he said, will make it difficult to ignore the wishes of the association.
Dues are $250 for licence holders and $25 for crewmembers.
The association is also hoping to attract membership from other areas, such as Digby and Grand Manan, New Brunswick.
“We have to have them on side if we’re going to fix this lobster price,” Mood said.
And he doesn’t just want fishermen and crews to support the association, he wants the private sector and businesses to ante up dollars as well, since a stronger lobster industry benefits the economy.
In response to questions raised outside of this meeting regarding whether fishermen would blockade the causeway in Shelburne County, Mood said there will none of this type of activity. Why, he said, would you do something that is going to hurt or inconvience the people who will be buying your lobster? There will be no boycotts, he said, and no criminal activity.
Mood invited people to step up to the microphone to ask questions or share concerns. Many did.
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