Ministerial Question Period: Lobster Fishery

By: The Hon. Rodger Cuzner

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Hon. Rodger Cuzner: It is great to see you, minister. With regard to an earlier question on the lobster, we know that lobster is sold on the open market, and, because of the abundance of lobster this year, they are having record catches in Atlantic Canada and Quebec. I know that you can’t find a lobster crate in Cape Breton to store a lobster, so the price has naturally come down.

You did something really good: Fishermen know that we need access to the U.S. market. Unless we do our part with protecting North Atlantic right whales, we don’t have access. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, will shut that part of the market down. What steps is your department taking to ensure that we protect the North Atlantic right whale?

Hon. Diane Lebouthillier, P.C., M.P., Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard: I can tell you that we’ve been taking steps since 2016. An advisory committee was created to protect whales. As you said, there are laws protecting marine mammals. The threat is real. The price of lobster would drop precipitously if the U.S. and European markets were to close.

I’ve had conversations with processors, and our conclusion was that we need to make sure we get the MSC certifications that show we use environmentally friendly fishing practices. Without that, the price of lobster could fall below $3 per pound, which would effectively kill the market for all species in Eastern Canada.

Last week, I announced an $800,000 investment in a new organization called Whale Seeker, which offers real-time whale monitoring to provide predictability to our fishers and the marine transport, cruise ship and cargo ship sector.

Senator Cuzner: Obviously, the steps taken have continued to keep that U.S. market open and available to Canadian lobster, but there was an issue in the Acadian Peninsula in New Brunswick that caused a great deal of concern, and you were able to find resolution on that particular issue. Could you sort of walk through the genesis of your decision and where that situation stands now? I understand the fishermen are still in the water.

Ms. Lebouthillier: In 2017, we had just started implementing the new measures. In my riding, we had to take the lobster traps out of the water for two weeks. Meetings were held in New Brunswick with the advisory committee, made up of different types of fishery associations and processors. I asked to have discussions with the fishers. For those of you who know a little about fishing, when fishers set their traps in the water, they measure in a unit called the fathom. We don’t use the same unit of measurement at Fisheries and Oceans Canada. I asked for a Canadian Coast Guard vessel to come with the president—

The Hon. the Speaker: Thank you, minister.

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