Lobster lament

Terry Roberts
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Some fishermen refusing to sell lobster catches because of low prices

The turmoil in Newfoundland's fishing industry is reaching into nearly every sector, with those who harvest lobster also feeling the pinch from low prices.

Buyers are offering as little as $3.25 per pound for the tasty crustaceans, and prices traditionally drop as the season advances.

Photo at top left, Because of low prices being offered to them, some lobster fishermen, such as brothers Earle (left) and Oakley Johnson of North Harbour, Placentia Bay, are vowing not to sell their catches, while others say it's not even worth their trou

The turmoil in Newfoundland's fishing industry is reaching into nearly every sector, with those who harvest lobster also feeling the pinch from low prices.

Buyers are offering as little as $3.25 per pound for the tasty crustaceans, and prices traditionally drop as the season advances.

Some fishermen are vowing not to sell their catches at this price, while others say it's not even worth their trouble to set their pots.

"We're not going to sell for $3.25 if there's anything else to do with them," said North Harbour, Placentia Bay fisherman Oakley Johnson, who works an enterprise with his brother, Earle.

The Johnsons have about 300 pounds of live lobster stored in boxes in the harbour, and that's where they'll stay until the prices increase, Oakley said. While commercial buyers are not welcome, area residents wanting to buy fresh lobster can stop by, he added.

Lobster landings have been low in Placentia Bay again this year, meaning fishermen need a premium price just to break even. On the province's west coast, where lobster fishing is more widespread, some fishermen report getting up to $4 per pound.

"Basically, all you're going to be doing is fishing for your stamps," Burgeo fisherman Leo Hann told Transcontinental Media recently.

Prices in this province are generally lower than those paid to fishermen in Nova Scotia, where lobster is a mainstay of the fishery. About 3,000 licence-holding harvesters in this province landed 2,581 tonnes of lobster in 2007, with a landed value of nearly $30 million In Nova Scotia, fishermen landed nearly 31,000 tonnes in 2006.

Oakley, meanwhile, said they may just give up on the lobster for the time being, and concentrate on landing their inshore quota of crab. But there are also uncertainties in that fishery as markets continue to slump because of the worldwide economic recession.

Under these conditions, Oakley wonders if there's much of a future in the fishery. He turns 65 in the fall and is disheartened by the absence of young people following in his footsteps.

"It's dying out," he said.

troberts@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Transcontinental Media

Geographic location: Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

  • Walter
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    Someone must have a bad memory or no access to a book if he or she can remember when there was no such thing as a poor fisherman.

    Newfoundland was built on the backs of poor fishermen, to say they are getting what they deserve is the height of callousness.

  • IdiocyNL
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    The prices on the fishery are so bad that you're going to out and catch the lobster and not sell them. Brilliant idea there boys. Newfoundland at its finest. Let me guess, if prices get worse, you're going to fish more and not sell those either.

    Prices of commodities, like lobster, go up and go down. In the good years, you should be saving for the bad ones. Yes, that means you might actually have to walk in the woods instead of riding a new ATV. What a concept.

  • Fishy Biz
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    I don't know that I've ever seen such a slew of ill-informed remarks in one place. Let's just take a deep breath here so we can properly evaluate. Firstly, nobody is looking for any bailouts as far as I can see. All that is being sought is a sensible price-marketing system that extracts the best possible value from the resource. Isn't that just good practice? Aren't we always being told by our bettors that we must maximize the value of all industry in our midst? At $4 or less, it's not feasible to fish lobster - period. So everyone is simply looking to see what can be done to fix the problem.

    Did you know that NL produces some of the best quality lobster on the planet? It's true. And yet, there is no coordinated marketing strategy, no branding.

    Another thing for all the St. John's based experts to keep in mind is that lobster is an inshore reosurce that is fished almost exclusively by, for all intents and purposes, the little guy. Ever see a 65-footer hauling lobster pots? Of course you haven't. This work is done by men and women in small boats, men and women who contribute greatly to their communities and to the economy in general. To be referring to these people like they are rats scrounging for a free meal is an absolute insult, not just to them, but to us all.

    The fishery has topped a billion dollars (tangible dollars that all go directly in the pockets of everyday people, not into the provincial government coffers like our offshore oil and gas) in each of the last two years, but the truth is it could be even better with a little effort and common sense. Is it wrong to pursue such a goal? Is it wrong to seek to improve the value of a product?

    One final point: although our current northeast-Avalon based mindset dictates that we must scoff at the work being done in rural communities, some people inside the overpass might want to stop and ask themselves where their next fresh fish, or even their next cabbagae or turnip, will come from once the lights in rural NL have been switched off?

  • Frank
    July 02, 2010 - 13:29

    The price of lobsters here in Richmond Hill, Ontario this afternoon was $13.00 per pound shipped in from PEI in the morning.
    I was thinking about the poor fisherman who challenges the unpredictable nature when he ventures out to haul his lobster traps. They are robbed by those who buy his lobsters, selling it for more than double the price he payed for it.
    The lobster fishermen and the merchants who sell it here in Ontario are the one,s who suffer. The middle man laughs all the way to the bank.

    Frank Blackwood
    Richmond Hill, Ont.

  • Doug
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    Concerned:

    It isn't my problem (or anyone else's for that matter) to find jobs for those in the dead fishing industry. That's their problem. Is anyone running around looking for jobs for people who get laid off in the engineering, IT, accounting professions etc. when they have down times?

  • Craving a Lobster
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    Tell us where you want to setup and sell them for $5/lb, and there will be a line as long as there was on Kenmount Road that day for jobs in Alberta!!!!

  • Eli
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    I recall some years ago there was a glut of codfish and fishermen were catching anyway. At the end of the day the fish were dumped overboard because the plants couldn't handle it.

    Prices too low for lobster?

    In both cases the goods should have been left in the water for another day or year for that matter.

  • Odd
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    Lobsters from Newfoundland sold in Norway are actually cheap as chips!

    Good to hear that you have a Stavanger Drive in St. John's, where seafood apparently is being sold by the catcher directly to the customer.

    Here in real Stavanger, Norway, Canadian live lobsters are sold for some 20 dollars a pound. In the season (late autumn) our own, unfortunately scarce breed of lobster, would cost you twice as much!

    Nevertheless, we Stavanger people do not complain about the price of Canadian lobsters being sold over the counter. Instead, we buy a pound or four of our own delicious prawns, which at this time of the year are at their very best!

    Looking forward to seing all my friends again in St. John's and to have a decent serving of Fish - or (my favorite) Jigg's Dinner!

  • Let it go
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    People Defending the Poor Fishermen. People Opposing the rich Fishermen. Let these people live thier own lives and manage it as they see fit.
    No one did anything for me when i had to make a career change in my 30's, with a family. i worked Engineering/construction, and i was 100% on my own. The people nor the government did anything for me when i had to change my career path, I took my chances, managed it my way, and luckily for me, things worked out.
    If the prices are to low for the average lobster harvester to survive, then they have to make a choice to continue, and live with it, or do something about it, as individuals or as a group.
    i know lots of lobster fishermen who pull in 6 figures each year, well to bad if the gravy train has ended. welcome to my world!!

  • Al
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    To the people that think that they have the answers to the problem, you have no idea how hard it is to try and make a living in the fishing industry. Every time a fisherman turns around, it seems that there is someone there trying to screw him. It's bad enough to have to survive on meager earnings, but when the so called middle man don't do anything but sell to the public and making a fortune for himself, we all know that it's just not right. Take your lobsters and sell to the people who would appreciate a decent deal for a good product.

  • Eugene
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    Mr. Oakley you shouldn't have any problem selling your lobsters...if you can deliver them live to st. John's we'll give you $5.50/lb...forget the middle man...we want our lobster!!

  • John W.
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    I find that the fisherpeople are always whinning about something or other. It's no different from any other industry. Either it's working or it's not. Bailouts? Why is it that only a few get this special treatment? Ah, the CEO's got it knocked.

    Anyway, I remember when there was no such thing as a poor fisherman. A big house, cars, all kinds of recreational equipment and the such. Maybe they should have done more with their money when the industry was in high gear, like putting some in the bank for those rainy days. Certainly there was time for a good normal education and other learning in their fields of choice. Priorities have to be put in their place, whether we like it or not. Maybe then we would not have all those uneducated people presently available for mostly unskilled work and such. I guess they got what they deserve. And that my friend are the pure, either happy or sad facts of life.

  • Paul
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    People in industries like fishing bring actual wealth to the province, as opposed to say most gov't workers who just use it up. It is important to this province that that wealth arrives in this province as opposed to some huge corporation from overseas. If there are seafood products taken from off our shores this province should be the ones taking them, whether that is inshore or offshore.

    In that, Nflder's should support their own people and be sure to have more than just the one feed of lobsters, but have as many as you can manage. It's good for you!! You can also freeze lobster once deshelled, so if you can't eat it, store it away and make a chowder somewhere down the line.

  • Concerned
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    Hey Doug,

    You got jobs waiting for those fishermen who are clinging? It's not the industry that's dead, it's those running it.

  • Rich
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    Hey Guys, you should form a co-op to market your products. Forget the money grabbing middle men. Sell directly to the customer. You can get a lot more for your catch. While giving the customer a bit of a break also. Plus, a few more jobs.
    I see it as a win win situation.

  • Doug
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    Basically, all you're going to be doing is fishing for your stamps,

    Oakley wonders if there's much of a future in the fishery


    Those two quotes pretty much tell the entire story of the fishery. How much longer do these people plan to cling to a dead industry. Oh and by the way, who does it hurt if fishermen decide not to sell their lobsters? Great threat there boys.

  • mercedes
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    Yes, set up your stands in places like the overpass, harbourside, and churchill Park. I bought a lobster as a gift for a friend last week; it was ilb, 3oz, and it was $19. I will certainly be a customer if I see you around. One year I cooked and froze a feed of lobster for New Years' Day and they were a bigger hit than any turkey. Good Luck.

  • John W.
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    Walter J.. I worked in a Government Position for years and I saw first hand those poor fishermen you speak of.

    I would be on the dock looking towards the water and I could see maybe a foot or so of decaying fish just laying on the bottom. Where do you think those came from? Certainly if times were so poor as you say, that type of situation would not exist. No matter where you go today, you would be lucky to see a dead fish that was thrown from a fishing vessel or such. Yes, and I could go on and on. But why, since it would serve no purpose. What's done is done. Anyone who had anything to do with the fishery has totally screwed it up.

  • Reality Check
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    Lobster regularly sells here for 5 bucks a pound. Rest assured, the consumer will pay 5 bucks a pound or more, no matter how low the price for raw materials goes. Lobster fisherman in this province would serve themselves and their customers best interests by marketing their own catches, as stated in comments above.

    Consider this; The local lobster fishermen could create their own brand, and thus, their own market for fresh seafood. Success could be achieved very quickly if they sold a little under 5/lb, lol. All their competition would certainly notice when they were stuck with product selling at 5 bucks or more AND, the fishermen would do way better, obviously, at a higher price. Processing lobster is for the birds, lol, if ya don't get it live, you don't get REAL lobster anyways. heh

  • Lobster Lover
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    Take your catch, put it in a big gray fish tub and sell it up at Stavanger Drive for $5 a pound. Funny, the prices offered to the fishermen are low, but the heck if we see any reflection of it at the grocery stores. That's what the fishermen did in Nova Scotia this year. I'd love a few feeds of lobster, but I'm not going to pay the grocery store prices when I know what they are doing to the fishermen.

  • Give them
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    It is called supply and demand. Lower the supply then the demand will go up. Otherwise eat em yurself, or toss them back in to be caught another day. Why waste time and fuel if these folks are not going to sell them?

    Starting to sound like the sealers now.

    Park a truck at the dock and sell them yourself if you think people will pay you for it. I might if I passed ya, but you better beat the stores, and keep my gas prices down.

  • Leafhater
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    Cry me a River. Everythings great when the price is up, but now in a recession and prices are down the poor fishermen. Keep your lobsters, you got to eat

  • Walter
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    Someone must have a bad memory or no access to a book if he or she can remember when there was no such thing as a poor fisherman.

    Newfoundland was built on the backs of poor fishermen, to say they are getting what they deserve is the height of callousness.

  • IdiocyNL
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    The prices on the fishery are so bad that you're going to out and catch the lobster and not sell them. Brilliant idea there boys. Newfoundland at its finest. Let me guess, if prices get worse, you're going to fish more and not sell those either.

    Prices of commodities, like lobster, go up and go down. In the good years, you should be saving for the bad ones. Yes, that means you might actually have to walk in the woods instead of riding a new ATV. What a concept.

  • Fishy Biz
    July 01, 2010 - 20:18

    I don't know that I've ever seen such a slew of ill-informed remarks in one place. Let's just take a deep breath here so we can properly evaluate. Firstly, nobody is looking for any bailouts as far as I can see. All that is being sought is a sensible price-marketing system that extracts the best possible value from the resource. Isn't that just good practice? Aren't we always being told by our bettors that we must maximize the value of all industry in our midst? At $4 or less, it's not feasible to fish lobster - period. So everyone is simply looking to see what can be done to fix the problem.

    Did you know that NL produces some of the best quality lobster on the planet? It's true. And yet, there is no coordinated marketing strategy, no branding.

    Another thing for all the St. John's based experts to keep in mind is that lobster is an inshore reosurce that is fished almost exclusively by, for all intents and purposes, the little guy. Ever see a 65-footer hauling lobster pots? Of course you haven't. This work is done by men and women in small boats, men and women who contribute greatly to their communities and to the economy in general. To be referring to these people like they are rats scrounging for a free meal is an absolute insult, not just to them, but to us all.

    The fishery has topped a billion dollars (tangible dollars that all go directly in the pockets of everyday people, not into the provincial government coffers like our offshore oil and gas) in each of the last two years, but the truth is it could be even better with a little effort and common sense. Is it wrong to pursue such a goal? Is it wrong to seek to improve the value of a product?

    One final point: although our current northeast-Avalon based mindset dictates that we must scoff at the work being done in rural communities, some people inside the overpass might want to stop and ask themselves where their next fresh fish, or even their next cabbagae or turnip, will come from once the lights in rural NL have been switched off?

  • Frank
    July 01, 2010 - 20:17

    The price of lobsters here in Richmond Hill, Ontario this afternoon was $13.00 per pound shipped in from PEI in the morning.
    I was thinking about the poor fisherman who challenges the unpredictable nature when he ventures out to haul his lobster traps. They are robbed by those who buy his lobsters, selling it for more than double the price he payed for it.
    The lobster fishermen and the merchants who sell it here in Ontario are the one,s who suffer. The middle man laughs all the way to the bank.

    Frank Blackwood
    Richmond Hill, Ont.

  • Doug
    July 01, 2010 - 20:14

    Concerned:

    It isn't my problem (or anyone else's for that matter) to find jobs for those in the dead fishing industry. That's their problem. Is anyone running around looking for jobs for people who get laid off in the engineering, IT, accounting professions etc. when they have down times?

  • Craving a Lobster
    July 01, 2010 - 20:14

    Tell us where you want to setup and sell them for $5/lb, and there will be a line as long as there was on Kenmount Road that day for jobs in Alberta!!!!

  • Eli
    July 01, 2010 - 20:13

    I recall some years ago there was a glut of codfish and fishermen were catching anyway. At the end of the day the fish were dumped overboard because the plants couldn't handle it.

    Prices too low for lobster?

    In both cases the goods should have been left in the water for another day or year for that matter.

  • Odd
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    Lobsters from Newfoundland sold in Norway are actually cheap as chips!

    Good to hear that you have a Stavanger Drive in St. John's, where seafood apparently is being sold by the catcher directly to the customer.

    Here in real Stavanger, Norway, Canadian live lobsters are sold for some 20 dollars a pound. In the season (late autumn) our own, unfortunately scarce breed of lobster, would cost you twice as much!

    Nevertheless, we Stavanger people do not complain about the price of Canadian lobsters being sold over the counter. Instead, we buy a pound or four of our own delicious prawns, which at this time of the year are at their very best!

    Looking forward to seing all my friends again in St. John's and to have a decent serving of Fish - or (my favorite) Jigg's Dinner!

  • Let it go
    July 01, 2010 - 20:08

    People Defending the Poor Fishermen. People Opposing the rich Fishermen. Let these people live thier own lives and manage it as they see fit.
    No one did anything for me when i had to make a career change in my 30's, with a family. i worked Engineering/construction, and i was 100% on my own. The people nor the government did anything for me when i had to change my career path, I took my chances, managed it my way, and luckily for me, things worked out.
    If the prices are to low for the average lobster harvester to survive, then they have to make a choice to continue, and live with it, or do something about it, as individuals or as a group.
    i know lots of lobster fishermen who pull in 6 figures each year, well to bad if the gravy train has ended. welcome to my world!!

  • Al
    July 01, 2010 - 20:04

    To the people that think that they have the answers to the problem, you have no idea how hard it is to try and make a living in the fishing industry. Every time a fisherman turns around, it seems that there is someone there trying to screw him. It's bad enough to have to survive on meager earnings, but when the so called middle man don't do anything but sell to the public and making a fortune for himself, we all know that it's just not right. Take your lobsters and sell to the people who would appreciate a decent deal for a good product.

  • Eugene
    July 01, 2010 - 20:03

    Mr. Oakley you shouldn't have any problem selling your lobsters...if you can deliver them live to st. John's we'll give you $5.50/lb...forget the middle man...we want our lobster!!

  • John W.
    July 01, 2010 - 20:03

    I find that the fisherpeople are always whinning about something or other. It's no different from any other industry. Either it's working or it's not. Bailouts? Why is it that only a few get this special treatment? Ah, the CEO's got it knocked.

    Anyway, I remember when there was no such thing as a poor fisherman. A big house, cars, all kinds of recreational equipment and the such. Maybe they should have done more with their money when the industry was in high gear, like putting some in the bank for those rainy days. Certainly there was time for a good normal education and other learning in their fields of choice. Priorities have to be put in their place, whether we like it or not. Maybe then we would not have all those uneducated people presently available for mostly unskilled work and such. I guess they got what they deserve. And that my friend are the pure, either happy or sad facts of life.

  • Paul
    July 01, 2010 - 20:02

    People in industries like fishing bring actual wealth to the province, as opposed to say most gov't workers who just use it up. It is important to this province that that wealth arrives in this province as opposed to some huge corporation from overseas. If there are seafood products taken from off our shores this province should be the ones taking them, whether that is inshore or offshore.

    In that, Nflder's should support their own people and be sure to have more than just the one feed of lobsters, but have as many as you can manage. It's good for you!! You can also freeze lobster once deshelled, so if you can't eat it, store it away and make a chowder somewhere down the line.

  • Concerned
    July 01, 2010 - 20:00

    Hey Doug,

    You got jobs waiting for those fishermen who are clinging? It's not the industry that's dead, it's those running it.

  • Rich
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    Hey Guys, you should form a co-op to market your products. Forget the money grabbing middle men. Sell directly to the customer. You can get a lot more for your catch. While giving the customer a bit of a break also. Plus, a few more jobs.
    I see it as a win win situation.

  • Doug
    July 01, 2010 - 19:56

    Basically, all you're going to be doing is fishing for your stamps,

    Oakley wonders if there's much of a future in the fishery


    Those two quotes pretty much tell the entire story of the fishery. How much longer do these people plan to cling to a dead industry. Oh and by the way, who does it hurt if fishermen decide not to sell their lobsters? Great threat there boys.

  • mercedes
    July 01, 2010 - 19:51

    Yes, set up your stands in places like the overpass, harbourside, and churchill Park. I bought a lobster as a gift for a friend last week; it was ilb, 3oz, and it was $19. I will certainly be a customer if I see you around. One year I cooked and froze a feed of lobster for New Years' Day and they were a bigger hit than any turkey. Good Luck.

  • John W.
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    Walter J.. I worked in a Government Position for years and I saw first hand those poor fishermen you speak of.

    I would be on the dock looking towards the water and I could see maybe a foot or so of decaying fish just laying on the bottom. Where do you think those came from? Certainly if times were so poor as you say, that type of situation would not exist. No matter where you go today, you would be lucky to see a dead fish that was thrown from a fishing vessel or such. Yes, and I could go on and on. But why, since it would serve no purpose. What's done is done. Anyone who had anything to do with the fishery has totally screwed it up.

  • Reality Check
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    Lobster regularly sells here for 5 bucks a pound. Rest assured, the consumer will pay 5 bucks a pound or more, no matter how low the price for raw materials goes. Lobster fisherman in this province would serve themselves and their customers best interests by marketing their own catches, as stated in comments above.

    Consider this; The local lobster fishermen could create their own brand, and thus, their own market for fresh seafood. Success could be achieved very quickly if they sold a little under 5/lb, lol. All their competition would certainly notice when they were stuck with product selling at 5 bucks or more AND, the fishermen would do way better, obviously, at a higher price. Processing lobster is for the birds, lol, if ya don't get it live, you don't get REAL lobster anyways. heh

  • Lobster Lover
    July 01, 2010 - 19:49

    Take your catch, put it in a big gray fish tub and sell it up at Stavanger Drive for $5 a pound. Funny, the prices offered to the fishermen are low, but the heck if we see any reflection of it at the grocery stores. That's what the fishermen did in Nova Scotia this year. I'd love a few feeds of lobster, but I'm not going to pay the grocery store prices when I know what they are doing to the fishermen.

  • Give them
    July 01, 2010 - 19:49

    It is called supply and demand. Lower the supply then the demand will go up. Otherwise eat em yurself, or toss them back in to be caught another day. Why waste time and fuel if these folks are not going to sell them?

    Starting to sound like the sealers now.

    Park a truck at the dock and sell them yourself if you think people will pay you for it. I might if I passed ya, but you better beat the stores, and keep my gas prices down.

  • Leafhater
    July 01, 2010 - 19:46

    Cry me a River. Everythings great when the price is up, but now in a recession and prices are down the poor fishermen. Keep your lobsters, you got to eat