In a move that would severely impact Nova Scotia’s lobster industry, Sweden has asked the European Union to ban the import of all U.S. and Canadian lobsters (homarus americanus). Sweden claims that the imported lobsters are an invasive species that threatens the smaller European lobster (homarus gammarus).
Sweden filed its claim this spring, invoking the precautionary principal that the EU should act before any real damage has happened. The EU’s scientific forum is expected to rule by August 31. Live lobster exports to the EU from the US and Canada are an estimated $200 million, so a EU ban would create significant hardships.
In a statement on August 23, 2016, Fisheries and Oceans Minister Keith Colwell said that Nova Scotia was fighting back hard:
“Nova Scotia is working aggressively with the Federal Government and industry to ensure live lobster shipments to the EU continue. We are also working jointly with our American neighbours who are affected by the same potential EU ban. Global Affairs Canada is the lead agency on this, but Nova Scotia is supporting their efforts along with DFO, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Canadian lobster industry. Canada and the U.S. have submitted comments on the lack of scientific evidence outlined in Sweden’s risk assessment and are actively engaging with decision-makers and importers in the European Union.”
The Swedish claim is based on the capture of 32 American lobsters in Swedish waters between 2008 and 2015. Norway caught 29 between 1999 and 2015, including two females with hybrid eggs.
Tangier lobster exporter Stewart Lamont is very skeptical of the Swedish invasive species claim. “There’s more here than meets the eye,” Lamont said. “The presence of a few North American lobster escapees in Swedish waters does not represent a calamity and the Europeans know it. However there are some European interests who would find this a very helpful, non-tariff barrier going forward.”
In the event that the EU agrees to ban lobster exports, Minister Colwell said that Canada would appeal the decision to the World Trade Organization (WTO). “If the vote supports Sweden’s request, the issue would then move to further consultation, including notification of the World Trade Organization, before a final decision on a ban is made.”