Help may be coming for Atlantic lobster fishermen

Lobster fishermen in Atlantic Canada whose industry has been devastated by low prices and waning demand could be getting financial help from Ottawa, an MP from the region said Sunday

Lobster fishermen in Atlantic Canada whose industry has been devastated by low prices and waning demand could be getting financial help from Ottawa, an MP from the region said Sunday.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay said discussions were taking place to determine the best way to assist fishermen who have been hit by record-low prices of under $3 a pound. “We’re trying to put something together that will allow for short-term relief,” he said.

“We recognize a lot of lobster fishermen and their families are hurting and suffering as a result of this crisis in the fishery.”

MacKay wouldn’t specify what immediate measures are being considered, but fishermen throughout the region say they need financial assistance to make loan payments and offset their losses.

They’re also looking for a downsizing of the fishery, arguing that Ottawa should buy baºck up to 30 per cent of the licences and reduce the number of people involved in the once-lucrative industry.

Some fishermen have said the Employment Insurance program should also be adjusted so fishermen who don’t meet the requirements can qualify.

MacKay said all the measures are being looked at and that something should be presented “very soon” following meetings this weekend with various fisheries associations.

The situation grew so bad last week that dozens of fishermen in P.E.I. kept their boats tied up at the wharf, saying the expense of fuelling their vessels and paying crews to catch the lobsters wasn’t worth it.