FISH-NL reiterates call for province to allow in outside buyers after panel sets 2018 snow crab price at far less than the mainland

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) says the decision of the Fish Price Setting Panel to set the 2018 price for snow crab at $4.55 a pound — well below the price paid to crab harvesters in the Maritimes — supports the call to open the provincial market to outside buyers.

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“When you learn the price of crab here has been set at $4.55 a pound on the same day that a crab fisherman in Louisbourg, Nova Scotia is paid $6 a pound it’s very disheartening,” says Jason Sullivan, Captain of FISH-NL’s under 40-foot fleet.

“It’s completely pointless to set the minimum price for crab when there’s no competition to see that harvesters receive fair market value for their product.”

It was left to the Standing Fish Price Setting Panel to set this year’s price for snow crab after the FFAW-Unifor and the Association of Seafood Producers (ASP) failed to reach agreement. 

The union’s final price was $4.80 a pound versus ASP’s price of $4.55. The panel could choose one price or the other. 

Sullivan said inshore harvesters were left completely in the dark in terms of who from the union sat in on crab negotiations. 

“The rumour is some of the negotiators for the FFAW-Unifor are in controlling agreements with fish processors,” he added. “How could the union support its own price of $4.80 a pound for crab when it’s $1.20 less than what’s being offered in Nova Scotia? The union is looking after someone, but it isn’t fishermen.”

Landings in the province’s snow crab fishery peaked in 2009 at about 54,000 tonnes, gradually declining to 34,000 tonnes in 2017 — their lowest level in two decades. This year’s quota, which has yet to be announced, is expected to suffer a 10-15 per cent cut.

FISH-NL presented a proposal on outside buyers to the provincial government in December, 2016 following an intensive, province-wide consultation with thousands of fish harvesters, whose support for out-of-province buyers appeared unanimous. 

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

To date, the province hasn’t been willing to allow outside buyers to operate in the province on an equal playing field with local buyers and plants.

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