The Guardian - Hope in the air for lobster prices at Boston seafood expo

Francis Morrissey, left, of Tignish Co-op and Royal Star Food, and Craig Avery of the Western Gulf Fishermens Association sit at a federal standing committee held near Montague.

Hope is in the air for the 2014 lobster season with early indications showing shore prices could be better than last year, according to participants of the North American seafood expo in Boston.

Francis Morrissey, manager of Royal Star Foods of Tignish, P.E.I., says the mood on the expo floor is more upbeat than in 2013.

“Last year nobody wanted to even talk, everybody seemed to be in a down mood. The economy in Europe was poor and in the United States,” Morrissey said in a telephone interview from Boston Monday.

“But this year things seem to have turned around. There’s people actually wanting to talk about lobster and talk about placing orders. I try to tell them all when I’m speaking to them that the price has to go up for the fishermen, they can’t continue to fish for this price.”

Last year saw the lowest shore prices for lobster in decades across the Maritimes. Fury over the prices led fishermen to tie up their boats during the opening two weeks of the spring fishery last year.

P.E.I. fishermen have been pushing for a set price and many are saying they will not set their traps this year if prices once again fall to $3 a pound.

P.E.I. Fisheries Minister Ron MacKinley, who is leading a trade mission of about 100 seafood industry representatives from the Island, says he too is hearing positive things about the upcoming season at the expo currently underway in Boston.

“They tell me this year we’re sort of out of that recession, so they’re picking up orders, which is good,” MacKinley said.

“There are people here from China, from Korea, from all over the U.S. And the crowds are way up, too.”

Seafood Expo North America, formerly called the Boston seafood show, is the largest seafood trade event in North America, with over 800 exhibitors offering products, services and equipment from all over the world. More than 19,000 buyers, suppliers and other seafood professionals from over 100 countries attend the expo each year.

Jean-Paul Gagné, of the Quebec Fish Processors Association told reporters during a teleconference Monday lobster fishermen from his province are indeed anticipating better prices for their catches this year.

“It will not be double, but we expect to have a better price in 2014 than in 2013,” Gagné said.

Jeff Duffin, vice-president of global marketing for Clearwater Seafoods in Nova Scotia said he too is hearing positive projections.

But he cautioned these indicators could change quickly, especially as more product is landed and enters the market.

“To date the shore price has been higher than we have expected,” Duffin said.

“But it really comes down to it being a supply and demand game and it’s really hard for us to predict what’s going to happen, because things change by the day as every boat goes out and fishes for lobster.”

Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea said her department is working with the industry in the region to develop long-term solutions to pricing issues, notably in opening the doors to new markets through trade agreements with the European Union and South Korea.

She also said DFO will honour all recommendations the Maritime Lobster Panel report directed toward the federal department.

“I guess you’ve heard some optimism (for 2014),” Shea said.

“DFO is working with the industry on long-term plans to create more demand, as you’ve heard, it’s a supply-and-demand industry.”