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Lobster Aimed At Chinese Market

By KHRISNA RUSSELL

Deputy Chief Reporter

krussell@tribunemedia.net

THE government is awaiting a response from the People’s Republic of China on whether it will approve the large-scale import of live spiny lobster from the Bahamas for Chinese consumption, Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister Renward Wells said yesterday.

As live lobsters fetch a much higher price, Mr Wells said revenue generation for the Chinese market would be a lucrative addition to an already $100m seafood export industry where $80m is already accounted for by spiny lobster sales.

He said the discussion began last year and, so far, resulted in the Department of Marine Resources conducting a series of studies necessary for a country to be a contender for the Chinese market.

Asked whether there were any concerns the move could potentially deplete the local lobster supply, Mr Wells said there were none because this resource was currently sustainable due to the closure of the season which also prohibits the fishing of mature lobsters when they are spawning.

He said: “Obviously live lobsters fetch a much higher price, so for the fishermen we were trying to get the Chinese government’s permission. Obviously, they had their concerns about sanitary conditions and how they wanted the lobster handled.

“So, the Department of Marine Resources basically went through all of the studies that were necessary to be able to export to China and we were waiting on the approval from the Chinese government that the Bahamas’ method of processing lobster was going to be accepted as a means to be able to export into China live lobster.”

He added: “Lobster happens to be the largest earner of revenue in terms of marine export. We export about $100m a year of seafood products out of the Bahamas and into Europe and the US and into various countries across the globe.

“Of that $100m, $80m or 80 percent is simply lobster exports, the spiny lobster. The remaining 20 percent is conch, grouper, snappers, a small amount of sea cucumber, spider crabs and snow crabs. It’s a great opportunity for us to expand our marine sector into other areas, but at the end of the day a large number of what we export happens to be spiny lobster.”

He said this is something that should be welcomed by Bahamians because rather than sending only lobster tails out, the country will be sending out the whole lobster. In addition, he said as opposed to frozen lobster, exporters will be sending the product out live.

He also dismissed any fears that Chinese fishermen will be engaged in the exercise, saying the opportunity will be for locals to export a new item into the Asian market.

“This isn’t about China fishing our waters, this is about Bahamian fishermen capturing the lobster live, bringing it to our export facilities and us following certain procedures and exporting it for China. Fishing is still reserved for Bahamians,” Mr Wells said.

Earlier this year, then-Prime Minister Perry Christie announced at the launch of the Bahamas Trade Information Services Portal, that Tropic Seafood was engaged in “major research” on farming lobsters and exporting them via air to China.

Glen Pritchard, Tropic Seafood’s president, told Tribune Business previously the company has had an “excellent” success rate with flying live lobsters into Hong Kong.

“The Asian market is all about fresh seafood. We’re flying lobsters into Hong Kong right now. The success rate has been excellent. We have a better record than the Americans in terms of the numbers that survive,” Mr Pritchard said at the time.

Last year, then-Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries V Alfred Gray was caught in controversy over his contradictory remarks over a $2.1 billion agri-fisheries proposal that the Bahamas Embassy in China was given the go ahead to discuss with Chinese investors.

Mr Gray admitted he told at the time newly appointed Bahamas Ambassador to China Paul “Andy” Gomez he could have discussions on the controversial proposal, and has said such an initiative could be a good one for the county. However, he has also hit out at the newspaper that reported the story, and called the initial report “utterly false”.

Comments

alfalfa 1 year, 11 months ago

I hope Mr. Wells does his homework on this. Lobster fisherman in the Bahamas are currently geared towards capturing lobster by "hooking" them with a modified spear; wringing the tails; dipping them in a cleaning solution; and freezing the tails. In order to capture live lobster and bring them to market, boats would have to have wells; dinghies would have to have some sort of live storage capabilities, and capturing would be a whole different ballgame. Boats that currently set traps for lobsters (very few) would have to be modified from freezer storage to live well. Very expensive to do. Purchasers of the live lobster, would have to have large storage areas to place them in, (again,very expensive), and then there is the matter of transport to China. Talk to the real fishermen in Spanish Wells and get their input. Sounds like a pipe dream to me.

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jackbnimble 1 year, 11 months ago

So Alfred Gray did sell us out. Sounds like Wells just finishing the deal.

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ThisIsOurs 1 year, 11 months ago

Don't know about him after the LOI, he never explained what happened. Id like to hear from an environmental group on this. Who would have ever believed we'd have a shortage of conch.

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Porcupine 1 year, 11 months ago

This is not news. The market for live lobster has been there for many years. No laws against it. Alfalfa makes clear the barriers to the market. A whole different way of fishing and equipment needed. Traps don't work in The Bahamas. Is it a mystery why? The seafood export dialog should remain in The Bahamas, by Bahamians. According to all reports, we will be able to sell every scrap of seafood we catch, for the foreseeable future, with or without foreign comment. We do not need the WTO, the Chinese, or anyone else telling us what to do. All we need is a sustainable supply of good quality seafood. Why are we complicating matters? However, it is important to realize, as currently evident to anyone reading the science, we humans are doing a fantastically miserable job of acting within the limits of sustainability. Most every fishery is collapsing, including the conch fishery in the Caribbean. It is presently not sustainable and is subject to total collapse in the near term. Conch has a much greater value here at home as a food source and as a reason to visit The Bahamas. We do not need to be wholesale exporting this valuable resource, while the fishery is collapsing around us. The barriers to the live lobster market are the habits of our fishermen. The Spanish Wells fishermen put out millions of "condos". The vast majority of Bahamian fishermen put out none, but are quick to point out that nobody "owns" these condos at sea, so they reap without sowing. That's our mentality. More is needed for the true idea of "sustainability" to work. Not just some unenforceable fisheries regulations. There has to be an agreed upon consensus, based on science, fairness and long term projections. And, there has to be a give and take. We only like to take. Currently, we do not have the social maturity, not the functioning of a well positioned fisheries department to see this sustainability idea through. Even though our quality of life, and life itself for that matter, is at stake.

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proudloudandfnm 1 year, 11 months ago

Renward better start dealing with reality. Yes harvesting undersize lobsters is illegal but the At does not stop ANYONE from doing it. This is the Bahamas. The law is a joke here. I'd suggest having a study done to determine the actual state of our lobster stock.

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sheeprunner12 1 year, 11 months ago

The idea is a good one ........ but the size restrictions have to change ........ The live lobsters whould be a total minimum size (say 10 inches) to a maximum size (say 16 inches). In this way, there would be a sustainable industry and that the present policy of taking ALL of the mature egg-bearing crawfish will be finally dealt with.

But HOW will the small fishermen survive?????? ....... Will we go back to the smack boats of 50 years ago?????? And what about the commercial fishing businessmen on the Out Islands?????? ........ Will they now invest in aquariums??????

The Minister must take all of this into consideration before he gets in bed with China (again).

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sheeprunner12 1 year, 11 months ago

The Minister is right about the possibility of making far more revenue ...... Key West exporters sell their live crawfish for $17.00 to $20.00 per pound.

Imagine the millions of tons of crawfish product wasted since the export of crawfish started 40-50 years ago ........ We waste too much in this country.

But .......... would our crawfishermen want to change their old ways?????

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inlaw 1 year, 11 months ago

This was done in crown haven some years back. Hooking turned into plunging. Provided jobs on land and see. I believe they were exported to France. Was not that different from today. Same problems with poaching others traps etc. one good thing was honest fisherman could throw back small lobster unharmed. This was a small operation land based so no big boat holding catch overnight. At first traps were set and hauled similar to Maine lobstering. Trap was very different in that I resembled a small "condo" with two side and one end partially block to keep keepers in and allow small out as trap was pulled up. Local saw end to their lively hood and proceeded to cut all the bouy's off at night or to move traps. After that operator agreed to only buy from locals and not to participate in the catch. Worked for a couple of years and stopped because of health reason of operator, I believe. Hurricanes have since destroyed the fish house. One of the shipping containers is still there. From what I observed it was a win win situation for crown haven. Mr Piere I believe we called him was respected and missed.

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happyfly 1 year, 11 months ago

It looks like another wonderful opportunity for some entitled elite's to partner up with foreign boat owners that are well financed and already set up to charge in and exploit the live lobster resources.....and leave the existing industry behind in the mud

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ThisIsOurs 1 year, 11 months ago

Exactly what I was thinking. When Christie came into power he legalized gaming, and you knew immediately where his campaign finances came from.

Minnis is opening the door wide to foreign businessmen, everything they campaigned against in "the light" . (And no that's not saying foreign is bad, it's saying what about Bahamians. Will wait to see the arrival of the mother ship, like Korean boats Stubbs got fired for in the 90's)

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scampi75 1 year, 11 months ago

It's all well and good to try increase export revenue but is it sustainable? Just because someone says it is doesn't mean it's so. Are there proper studies confirming this? A shortsighted approach now will pay dearly in the future. also, has there been any discussion of putting limits on exports? Probably not. Anyone who thinks conch, lobster and grouper are an inexhaustible resource are living in lala land!

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Islangal1 1 year, 11 months ago

This is going to spell disaster for the industry as China has an insatiable appetite, not sure The Bahamas will be able to sustain supplying their Market and supplying the rest of the world with lobster or seafood for that matter. In addition to that, if they convince the government to lower the legal size of lobster because they are being exported live, that would be a bigger blow and in a few years lobsters will greatly decline. Let's not think about the short-term profits but rather the long term impact. The destruction of the Canadian fishing industry is a great place to start.

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realfreethinker 1 year, 11 months ago

This country will not survive with the close minded thinking of Bahamians.I see this as another opportunity for Bahamians to make money. There is no foreign involvement other than an export market. We have been " protecting" Bahamians for 50 years and what has that gotten us.

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sheeprunner12 1 year, 11 months ago

It is not a matter of a xenophobic-minded "protecting Bahamians" stance ........... It is a matter of negotiating a better seafood deal that Bahamians can adapt to and able to maximize all phases of the industry .......... That is the issue at hand....... Will the fishermen be able to transition to live lobster fishing based on the present MO and infrastructure???? ......... Will the intermediate and export wholesalers be able to store and ship the product based on the present MO?????

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hrysippus 1 year, 11 months ago

One seafood China wants from our nation, ....... ... Is Spiny tailed lobster Crustacean... ....... .......... .. Sea Cucumbers? Please buy all you wish. .... .......... Same for Sea urchins or Lion Fish. .......... ... ..... But lobster is a bit like conch.. ... .... ....... Men think it helps them when they b*. ........ ..... So please leave all our tings right here,.. ...... .... For Friday dining with Kalik beer.

Keep the fish fry in business.

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sheeprunner12 1 year, 11 months ago

THIS IS THE PERFECT TIME TO BEGIN COMMERCIAL FISH FARMING OF CRAWFISH AND SNAPPER ...... LIKE IN JAPAN AND NORWAY ....... WE HAVE THE PERFECT COASTAL BAYS AND OFFSHORE GRASS SHALLOWS TO GROW ANY FISH PRODUCT.

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