16th U.S.-Canada lobster town meeting focuses on the future

More than 120 people attended the Lobster Institute’s Canada/U.S. Lobster Town Meeting held in Moncton, New Brunswick on January 24-25. The focus of the 2020 event was “Lobsters without borders: Forging our futures together.” It marked the 16th year that the University of Maine’s Lobster Institute hosted the event. According to Lobster Institute Director Rick Wahle, “The Town Meeting is now a long-standing tradition and premier event welcoming lobster industry members, fishery managers and scientists from both sides of the border. The industry-organized meeting makes a special effort to engage the harvesting sector to discuss the status of the lobster resource and the business of lobstering from their perspective.” The Lobster Town Meeting’s open discussion format allows all participants to get a more complete picture of the entire resource and the industry. This input helps set the agenda for research for the lobster fishery on an industry-wide basis.

The winter meeting gives lobstermen from the Maritime provinces and New England a chance to share information and concerns. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

On day one of the meeting participants took part in a full schedule of broad-ranging discussions, with specialists on hand to help guide the dialogue. The day’s discussion included the topical issues of lobster processing in North America as well as lobster marketing – how the industry is moving its combined 350+ million pounds of lobster. Lobster quality and lobster as a product in a rapidly changing globalized marketplace were the main focus related to processing. The marketing discussions centered mainly on how lobster marketing will change with climate change, sustainability in the industry, and new marketing techniques.
The session on North American right whales centered on migration and protection measures on both sides of the border. Questions from the audience varied, with many calling for more investigations surrounding whale physiology, ecosystem food web ecology, and alternative explanations for ecosystem shifts or other sources of mortality beyond the fishing industry. Audience members asked for more information on the steps other industries, such as the cruise and shipping companies, are doing to protect the species.
Day two of the event included discussions about media relations. There was also plenty of time for open discussion on a variety of topics, in a true town- meeting-style format.
Special guests at the event included the Minister of Fisheries and Communities from Prince Edward Island, the Honorable Jamie Fox and Minister of Finance, the Honorable Ernest Steeves, who shared welcoming remarks from the host Province of New Brunswick.
Also attending were high school students from Vinalhaven School on Fox Island, Maine. These students are participating in a year-long curriculum revolving around fisheries in Maine and Canada, working with a sister school from Prince Edward Island. They took an active role in the discussions and networking and were able to attend, in part, due to support from the Lobster Institute’s Klaus Sonnenberg Memorial Scholarship.
The Lobster Institute’s Canada/U.S. Lobster Town Meeting alternates between Canada and the U.S. each year. Having been hosted on the Canadian side in St. John and St. Andrews, NB, in the past, this was the first time the event was held in Moncton. The one-and-a-half day event brings lobstermen and others connected to the fishery together to share ideas, questions, and concerns. A major goal of the Town Meeting is to foster collaboration and communication among geographic areas and sectors of the fishery. This was evident as fishermen, processors, dealers and managers traveled from Massachusetts, Maine, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia to attend the event.