P.E.I. lobster buyers vote to suspend collecting lobster levy

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P.E.I. lobster buyers vote to suspend collecting lobster levy

Island lobster buyers are not collecting the one cent per pound levy this year, but fishermen will continue to pay theirs. P.E.I. was the first province in the region to introduce the two cent levy in 2016.

The levy took one cent per pound from Island fishermen for lobster they brought in and another cent per pound from the buyers. 

The money was used for marketing lobster products with the fishermen's levy going toward the Lobster Fishers Marketing Board and the buyer's share to the P.E.I. Lobster Marketing Authority Inc.

Francis Morrissey, former acting president of the P.E.I. Lobster Marketing Authority Inc., said buyers voted earlier this year to suspend collecting the levy in 2018. 

He said the group collected the levy for two years and buyers decided it wasn't fair that P.E.I. was the only province in Atlantic Canada collecting the money. 

"At the end of the two years a lot of the buyers said they wanted to know why we're going to continue to do this as we waited and waited for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to come onside where we would have pooled the money all together to market Canadian lobster," Morrissey said. 

Group will collect when other provinces join

Morrissey said the organization has suspended operations, after member buyers voted 21-1 in favour of stopping the collection of the levy, but the company is still active and could resume collecting if the other provinces join in. 

"There's money left in the company to keep it active for the next five years, to keep it active, to pay its costs each year," Morrissey said.

"If at any time in the next five years, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, the rest of them want to come into a marketing program where we're marketing lobsters from Canada, then all of the buyers at the meeting said within a month we can activate, have the company up and going again and have no problem collecting."

More than half-a-million dollars was collected in the first two years of the levy. Morrissey said a percentage of that money — minus the costs to keep the organization running — will be returned to the buyers who paid the levy, based on the volume they brought in.

Fishermen frustrated

Fishermen on the Island continue to collect their one cent per pound levy.

Charlie McGeoghegan, chair of the Lobster Fishers Marketing Board, says it's been investing that money on a number of different marketing initiatives. 

"Fishermen are just finding out now and they're not happy about it," McGeoghegan said. 

"Basically, they're saying 'we don't need to market P.E.I. lobster, they sell themselves,' by not collecting the levy or even using what they did collect."

McGeoghegan said everything the board does to market P.E.I. lobster is beneficial to buyers and he wants to see them do well, but he also wants them to share.

Morrissey said it's sad that buyers are missing a great opportunity to work with the rest of Atlantic Canada to promote their industry.

"We have no problem promoting the industry," Morrissey said. "But we want to promote it, that everybody participates, not just one province." 

The CBC also reached out to the province, which declined to comment.

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