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A last-ditch effort from the Lobster Council of Canada?

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.

In response to Stewart Lamont's Small Scales blog "Can We Build a Sustainable Lobster Sandwich Together?" I was left pondering the question: why does the Lobster Council of Canada, or any of its board members, expect McDonald's to work with them to create a "sustainable sandwich"? 

This appears to be a last-ditch effort from an organization that has utterly failed to increase lobster sales on the international market. At the crux of Lamont's blog lies a desperate attempt to beg McDonald's to increase the price points on their lobster sandwich by charging customers more for their inferior product.

I have no doubts that McDonald's would have no issue charging an even more outrageous price for its McLobster sandwich. But is that really what fishermen and citizens of Atlantic Canada want to see the lobster industry become - an industry sustained by a multinational organization who only cares about its bottom line? How is this going to improve the price of lobster for the fishermen?

There are a number of realistic answers to help the industry increase prices. Doing away with canner-size lobsters, increasing the market-size lobster to American sizes, or increased advertising abroad. Size increases have a short-term impact on catches; however, many fishermen are aware that size increases are a very real possibility and have stated they are willing to do their part to expand the market and improve prices at license-holder meetings during this spring's tie up.

The fisheries ministers of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and PEI have also agreed to create a panel during the off-season to explore the industry's options. 

The fact is, there is a huge supply of lobsters along the East Coast of North America, and Maine's exports have been growing exponentially over the last couple of years which has served to drive down the price of Atlantic Canadian lobster. 

By doing away with canner size lobster and increasing market sizes to American standards, lobsters would have a couple extra years to mature and produce offspring, leading to a more sustainable fishery. Partnering with McDonald's, on the other hand, leaves the industry with current sizes and the possibility of driving down prices even lower in an attempt to save McDonald's money. McDonald's already runs aggressive advertising campaigns in Atlantic Canada for its seasonal McLobster sandwich. Additional advertising does not necessarily lead to increased sales. 

I understand the notion that individuals traveling to Atlantic Canada may try lobster for the first time at McDonald's. But who are you kidding - does anyone compare a $1.69 McDouble to a farm-fresh barbecued hamburger? I certainly hope not!

How about encouraging people to travel, meet with the fishermen, and purchase the product fresh off the back of their boat from that day's catch? 

My suggestion to the Lobster Council of Canada is to go back to the drawing board. Get in touch with the fishermen and local entrepreneurs and have the discussions that need to take place.  Drop this crazy idea that McDonald's has any interest in creating a sustainable industry, and please don't try to turn the McLobster into the backbone of rural Atlantic Canada's lobster fishery.

- dr.jonzo

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