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2023 losses close in on $50,000 for Fortune Bay lobster fisherman at buyer's mercy

With no buyer for his lobster, cod, halibut, and snow crab at various points this past season — combined with a severe drop in scallop landings blamed on an out-of-control recreational fishery — one Fortune Bay fishermen estimates a $46,000 drop in revenue to date this year over 2022. 




What’s clear is that a shortage of buyers is causing the province’s inshore fleet a world of financial pain, putting them at the mercy of existing foreign/domestic processing companies that buy when/where/what/and from whomever it suits them. 


That grip on the inshore must be broken. 


The landed value of this year’s snow crab fishery is down $500 million from 2022, but other commercial fisheries are also suffering. 


“I’m a cracker crumb away from financial disaster and the companies don’t give a shit,” the lobster fisherman says.


“This has gone beyond mafia. No matter what species you’re trying to fish there’s a roadblock. Fishing enterprises are in danger of bankruptcy because of the way buyers are behaving.”


LOBSTER LOSSES 


The fishermen, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, estimates he lost $25,000-plus alone in late April when his buyer, Quin-Sea/Royal Greenland, refused to buy lobster after the first week of the season.


The lobster price for the first week had been set at $14.37/lb, and was generated by a formula signed off on by the ASP/the FFAW to start the season.


It’s still not clear whether Quin-Sea/Royal Greenland and other companies stopped buying based on the high lobster price or in retaliation for the snow crab tie-up. 


The fact that companies CAN refuse to buy from fishermen for no reason in particular — with zero repercussions — is ludicrous. 


Before refusing to buy at $14.37/lb, the fisherman said his buyer also locked up the holding crates so fishermen couldn’t store their catch. 


If the powers-that-be can’t see that for the abuse of power that it is, then they are willfully turning a blind eye.


COD/HALIBUT LOSSES


The Fortune Bay fisherman said Quin-Sea/Royal Greenland refused to buy cod or halibut from him until after the lobster season. 



Only the fisherman said the water in Fortune Bay is too warm to go after groundfish by then, and he lost out on the income from those fisheries. 


But that’s not the worst of it. 


When DFO initially opened the cod/halibut fisheries the fisherman decided to piggy-back on lobster, and earn a few extra bucks. 


Quin-Sea/Royal Greenland said they were “buying everything,” and so he baited and set his gear — hauling in about 500 pounds of halibut, and 200 pounds of cod — on top of his lobsters. 


Only when the fisherman got to the wharf Quin-Sea/Royal Greenland told him they weren’t buying, and the fisherman sold his catch locally.


SNOW CRAB LOSS


To put icing on the cake, when the snow crab season finally opened the enterprise owner, who fishes from a speedboat, was told that with only 3,500 pounds of snow crab to catch he would have to wait behind the rest of the fleet.  


So the fisherman didn’t even bother to fish crab, and stuck with lobster. 


As for scallops, the fisherman says landings this year are down dramatically from years past (from 60-70 pounds a day to less than 10 pounds some days), which he blames on an out-of-control recreational fishery. 


The fisherman also said Quin-Sea/Royal Greenland has given him a hard time since February when he sold herring to another buyer, even though Quin-Sea/Royal Greenland offered him less for the fish.


So between not selling his lobster for top price, and then not having a buyer for cod, halibut or crab and reduced scallop landings the fisherman says his losses from 2023 are closing in at $50,000. 


Something has to give.


Ryan Cleary,

Executive Director, SEA-NL

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is a professional, non-profit organization that serves as the distinct voice for licensed, independent owner-operator inshore fish harvesters. Visit sea-nl.ca to join. If you have any issues contact me at sea-nl@outlook.com or 709 682 4862.

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