Southwestern Nova Scotia lobster buyers loathe levy

Greg Bennett gbennett@thecoastguard.ca
Published on February 20, 2015

A proposed two-cent per pound levy on lobster is not being received well by lobster buyers in southwestern Nova Scotia.

YARMOUTH -Many lobster buyers in southwestern Nova Scotia are not happy with the province’s proposal to charge fishermen and buyers a levy on the valuable crustaceans.

A group of buyers attended a Feb. 17 meeting in Yarmouth to listen to the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture make a pitch for a two-cent-per-pound levy to raise funds for a marketing program.

At the risk of saying “something that will get me in trouble” Cape Sable Island lobster buyer Peter Swim told the Shelburne Coast Guard that the buyers at the Yarmouth meeting were largely opposed to the idea.

Swim was clear that many of the buyers believe a marketing program would be of benefit. He said enforcing and administering a levy on the many independent fishermen and buyers in the industry would be an administrative nightmare for all involved though.

“I’m in favour of supporting some sort of program for advertising …just not a levy,” he said.

Woods Harbour lobster buyer Richard Malone didn’t make the lobster levy meeting in Yarmouth because he wasn’t feeling well, but he echoed Swim’s comments.

“I don’t like it,” said Malone. “It will be awkward to collect and administer … it will be a lot of work and hassle for us that we don’t need.”

The current proposal would see buyers and fishermen each pay a cent per pound for every lobster caught and landed.

In a media scrum in Halifax on Thursday, Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Keith Colwell told provincial reporters the department would be open to considering other ways to raise the funds from the industry.

Queens-Shelburne NDP MLA Sterling Belliveau said in a release that Fisheries Minister Keith Colwell will need a mandate from the fishing industry before any money can change hands and called for a province-wide vote on the issue.

 “It’s all very confusing, but this much is certain - if Keith Colwell and the Liberal government want the lobster industry to hand over any money they need to get a mandate. And the only way to get a mandate is to go out and hold a provincewide vote,” added Belliveau.

Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture representatives have been consulting with fishermen and industry representatives across the province about the proposed levy.

Those meetings wrap up on Feb. 27 with the final scheduled session in Advocate Harbour.