Lobster Council working with European governments to combat threat to live lobster imports

Carla Allen callen@thevanguard.ca
Published on August 18, 2016

Lobster caught off southwestern Nova Scotia.

©TINA COMEAU PHOTO

YARMOUTH, N.S. – The discovery of several dozen live lobsters in Swedish waters earlier this year is jeopardizing future imports to Europe from North America.

In Canada, there is work being done to prevent that move. 

Geoff Irvine, executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada, says the organization has been working on this issue for months.

“We just want everyone to be aware that it is being attacked very aggressively,” he said.

The Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management is spearheading a drive to stop the import of live lobsters from North American exporters. It has asked the European Union to bar these imports. 

The agency considers the American lobster an alien species in Swedish waters and has stated the lobsters' presence could introduce new and “very serious diseases and parasites that may affect domestic European lobster and other shellfish.”

The found lobsters may have been either deliberately released or escaped from storage in their cages in the water. Specimens that are caught in Norwegian and Swedish waters sometimes still have the North American exporter's rubber bands around their claws, the agency said. 

 

Both Canadian and North American teams, with representatives from several organizations, are working to diffuse the threat by advocating high-level government-to-government discussions. Canada and the US are having discussions with EU members, said Irvine.

 “We’re asking our exporters to ask their importers to lobby their own governments,” said Irvine.

 The European Union’s Scientific Forum on Invasive Alien Species is expected to express an opinion about the proposed ban on Aug. 31.

“There will be another meeting in October, we’re told,” said Irvine.

The issue could go as far as the World Trade Organization.

“We’re hoping it doesn’t get that far. We’re pushing hard. Our exporters are pushing hard and there are many European importers who are pushing their governments hard. That’s where it stands,” he said.

The United States and Canada exports $200 million worth of lobster to European markets annually.