first_imgWe know the importance of the lobster industry in Nova Scotia. It is the mainstay of many of our coastal communities. Each year, 300- to 400-million-dollars worth of lobsters are landed by about 3,400 lobster license holders in our province. We are very fortunate to have a diversified fishery in our province, but lobster is by far the most valuable sector. While Nova Scotia lobsters are sold worldwide, the United States is our most important customer. Access to this market must be protected. The economies of a vast area of Nova Scotia depend on a healthy lobster fishery and a healthy market. In December, U.S. border agents stepped up inspection of Canadian lobsters being transported to market. This was not a trade action. They were acting on complaints that illegal lobsters were coming into their country to be sold. Primarily, they were looking for undersize lobsters, egg-bearing female lobsters, and v-notched lobsters. What they found was that over half of the trucks they checked from Nova Scotia had varying amounts of illegal lobsters. As a result, there will be more checks at the border and the penalties may be increased above the current fines. Access to our best market could be severely affected. As an industry, Canadian fishermen and fish buyers must address this problem. The size limit in southwest Nova Scotia is the same as the U.S. measure; it is illegal to possess egg bearing lobsters, and v-notching is part of our management plan. In short, all these rules are the same in southwest Nova Scotia as they are in the U.S. Government cannot prevent every illegal lobster from coming ashore without co-operation from thefishing industry. A culture of conservation must prevail in our industry to ensure its sustainability. As Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, I urge everyone in the Nova Scotia industry to be more diligent and to make sure illegal lobsters do not come ashore. The consequence of not doing so will be severe. Longer waits at the border can be expected as U.S. agents take the time to measure lobsters that should have been checked at sea or at pounds. This additional delay will hurt all sectors of the industry. I realize that the lobster industry is facing some challenges related to the strong Canadian dollar and quality issues, however practices that put illegal lobsters into the system will make many problems worse. The lobster fishery is crucial for our coastal communities and we must all do our part to ensure it is protected. I fully intend to take my responsibilitiesin this matter seriously. I will be instructing my officials to be vigilant with dealers who trade in illegal lobsters. Those caught violating the regulations will face charges that may result in fines and licence cancellations. I stress again, the lobster industry is far too important for us to allow it to be jeopardized by those who are careless with their actions or think they can make more money by selling illegal lobsters. We must all work together to protect the number one fishery in Nova Scotia. -30-last_img

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