How to get out of this pinch

Canada’s lobster industry could do with some better marketing

How to get out of this pinch

Steven Senne/AP

Everybody knows the slogan, “Got Milk?” Pork producers urge Canadians to “Put pork on your fork.” Now, a new report suggests Canada’s lobster industry could do with some better marketing, too.

Though Canada’s lobster business has been plagued by low prices for years, it was hit especially hard during the recession. Last year, prices were at record lows, with some fishermen forced to sell for less than $3 a pound. Canada exports lobsters to 55 countries, but 80 per cent go to the U.S., notes the report, done for the Lobster Council of Canada (LCC). “The increasing Canadian dollar has hammered us hard,” says Geoff Irvine, the LCC’s executive director. (Last year, some fishermen resorted to selling their catch on the online classified site Kijiji.)

Lobster supply has also overtaken demand, notes the report, prepared by the Halifax-based consulting firm Gardner Pinfold, which suggests cutting back the number of traps during peak fishing seasons as one potential fix. But Irvine admits that’s “controversial” among harvesters. (In New Brunswick and P.E.I., some fishing licences are being bought back, so fewer boats are out competing for the catch, says Irvine.) Beyond controlling supply, determining a set price at which fishermen sell to dealers could create some “consistency,” he notes. On the demand side, the industry is looking at producing more processed foods out of lobster, so even the squeamish can eat it at home. “Most people don’t like to have to kill their meal before they eat it,” says Irvine.

And a catchy marketing campaign could help open up new markets in Europe, Asia, and at home. “Lobster is an iconic product harvested in the pristine waters in Atlantic Canada,” says Irvine. “But it’s a story we don’t tell.”

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