FISH-NL describes price of cod as ‘scandalous’ and another example of FFAW conflict; renews call for province to allow in outside buyers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) says the 2017 price of cod recently negotiated by the FFAW is an insult to the province’s inshore harvesters, and renews its call for the province to allow in outside buyers.

“That price is scandalous,” says Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL. “It’s an insult to already injured inshore harvesters. The FFAW expects cod will save harvesters from shellfish declines, but then the union agrees to a price that will starve our fish harvesters as fast as DFO mismanagement.”

The high price of cod this year is up 5 cents a pound. 

The 2017 price per pound paid to harvesters for Grade A cod has been set at a high of 83 cents, and low of 20 cents. In 2016, the Grade A price paid was 78 cents, with 20 cents a pound as the low mark for Grade C. 

Harvesters, who are already hurting from declines in shrimp and crab quotas, expect to be paid an average price for cod this year of 60 cents a pound — around the same as last year. 

The 2017 price was agreed to on Monday by the FFAW and Icewater Seafoods of Arnold’s Cove, and then signed off on Tuesday by the province’s Standing Fish-Price Setting Panel.

“The low price of cod is yet another prime example of the conflict of interest that exists in the FFAW representing unionized plant workers at Icewater Seafoods and inshore harvesters,” said Cleary. “It’s impossible to get a good price.”

The modest increase in the price of cod comes as groundfish licence holders were recently hit with a slight increase in dockside monitoring fees, which are also controlled by the FFAW through its company, the Fish Harvesters’ Resource Centre (FRC). 

The Fish-Price Setting Panel’s decision outlines how the FRC will continue to be the “exclusive” dockside monitoring company for the fishery. The Panel also dictates that fish should be graded at the plant, while FISH-NL takes the stand that harvesters would get more for their fish if it was graded at the wharf.

Processors pay the FFAW .01 cents per pound for union graders to “independently” sample fish at the plants, which works out to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. 

In late December, FISH-NL called on the province to lift all restrictions and allow out-of-province buyers into the provincial marketplace for all species.

“An open and free market in the fishing industry would, at best, result in increased competition and more money in the pockets of fish harvesters,” said Cleary. “At worst, it would keep local buyers honest.”

“With the decline of crab and shrimp and the growing reliance on resurging groundfish, it’s critical that harvesters be paid the highest possible price for their catch.”

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