MONCTON, N.B. - Fish processing plants in New Brunswick resumed full operations Friday, one day after a judge ordered an injunction to prevent fishermen from blocking access to the facilities in an ongoing dispute over the import of U.S. lobsters.
Ronald LeBlanc, the lawyer representing the nine processing plants who applied for the injunction, said no demonstrations were reported outside the plants since the 10-day injunction was granted Thursday.
LeBlanc said he hopes ongoing negotiations will resolve the dispute, but he added that the processors have not ruled out asking for another injunction if they think it's necessary.
"It's certainly not off the table," he said from Moncton. "It all depends on how the discussions go with the union and the fishermen and how everybody behaves."
Tensions over lobster prices bubbled over last week, when fishermen in the province held demonstrations in Cap-Pele and Shediac and trucks were blocked from delivering Maine lobsters to three processors.
On Wednesday, they staged a protest outside the Fredericton office of federal Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield, where some of them dumped their lobster traps.
Some officials with the Maritime Fishermen's Union met Friday with Ashfield. A spokeswoman for the minister said they discussed industry-led resolutions and strategies aimed at preventing similar disputes from arising in the future, but she declined to release further details.
Calls to the union were not returned.
Processors in the province have agreed to pay a minimum of $2.50 per pound for processed lobster and $3 per pound for live market lobster. But the union says New Brunswick fishermen need $4 per pound for both fresh and processed lobster just to break even.
The provincial government has rejected a call from some fishermen for financial compensation.
The protesting fishermen work in the Northumberland Strait in the southern part of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Their season, which was supposed to start Thursday, is now scheduled to begin Monday.
Rodney MacDonald, a retired lobster fisherman who runs Alma Lobster Shop in Alma, N.B., said he sympathizes with the disgruntled fishermen but there are "tough times everywhere."
MacDonald's sons are lobster fishermen in the Bay of Fundy, where the season ended last month. He said it wouldn't be fair if the government provided compensation to one group of fishermen and not others.
"If they help them, what are they going to do with the hundreds of fishermen down here that we've dealt with all the month of July?" he said.
"We've had the same problem worse than what they've had because we sold for $2 a pound."
In Maine, Gov. Paul LePage met Friday with worried lobster processors from his state, where they told him they were concerned that Canadian processing plants could undercut their business because they receive government assistance.
Linda Bean, founder and owner of Linda Bean's Perfect Maine, said she would support imposing tariffs on processed lobster products shipped from Canada.
"I'm not a protectionist, but we need protection or else we won't be able to sell in volume," she said.
— By Jane Gerster in Halifax.