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Guest Column: Fishing for an answer to the question of value

We should and we must figure out a formula whereby all of these players can be successful. Each is dependent upon the other pieces of the puzzle and we ignore any stakeholder’s role at our absolute peril. In the last five years we have had wild swings in the value of a Canadian lobster on shore. At the lowest point they were $3/lb. Canadian and at the highest they reached a peak of $12/lb. Neither of these extremes obviously is workable. $3 is not sustainable for fishers, and $12 is not reasonable for any volume of landings whatsoever. We need to find a middle ground and we need that range to be much narrower. If, for instance, we chose a range from $5-7/lb. Canadian, depending upon catch, quality, demand and extraordinary issues, we would probably have a model that would allow everyone a piece of the action. We need to segregate the catch for value: obviously no one should pay the same price for soft shell as for hard shell. Obviously if the catch is down the price must trend up accordingly. Obviously if the U.S. exchange is unfavorable it will impact the value of our lobster. On top of all these considerations, please don’t let us forget Mother Nature. This spring she has given us glorious lobster quality in Canada, but she has done us absolutely no favors with fishing weather. Two days of half decent weather would be followed by two or three days in which it was hardly safe to be on the water. We lost more days this spring from blowy conditions than at any time in the last 30 years or more. No doubt it will even out over time, but this particular spring was weather-challenged and then some. As this is written the prevailing shore price in Canada is hovering at $8/lb. Canadian ($6.35/lb. US) in many ports. That is fantastic for fishers but not so great for all of the other players. The price is likely not sustainable in the market unless lobsters are in desperately short supply and the shedders come in later than anticipated. Processors in particular have had trouble finding supply that processed markets could afford at the moment. Plus shedders are showing up in Maine already and are being shipped to Europe and Asia. What is the long-term solution for sustainable pricing? They don’t pay me enough to provide that devilish answer. I’m much better asking the questions than coming up with the answers. I just know in Canada we need to tell an effective brand story backed up by superb quality. We must begin to demonstrate a reason for a higher cost than normal for our various lobster products. Better still, we need to bring all the players to the table and dabble with a collective formula that recognizes risks, rewards and level of investment. Right now the potential of this lobster fishery in the international marketplace is unprecedented. It appears we have entered a brave new world of opportunity and I don’t say that lightly. But it will all come crashing down around us if we fail to find a profitable role for ALL of the key players.

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