The sea cucumber fishery off Newfoundland’s south coast is usually underway by June 1st, but the fleet has yet to leave the wharf this season because processors won’t buy for the price set by the government-appointed panel.
Each sea cucumber licence holder has a harvesting cap of 260,000/lbs (118 tonnes) of sea cucumber round weight. The sea cucumber fishery off Newfoundland's south coast in fishing zone 3Ps opened last year on June 1, but the fleet didn't fish until August in a dispute over price.
Processors reportedly approached the FFAW recently to lower the price (68¢/lb, plus 27.5% deduction for water) as set by the panel on May 18th.
It appears the Associations of Seafood Producers was reluctant to use their one and only price reconsideration allowed under the province’s panel system of fish pricing.
Ironically, the panel system was created almost 20 years ago to avoid fishery shutdowns, and keep the industry moving.
The panel system is obviously broken beyond repair, an elephant on the wharf that the Andrew Furey government has yet to acknowledge. (That should change soon.)
Sea cucumber joins the growing list of species — northern shrimp, and snow crab (although there are reports crab is selling again) — that processors won’t buy at the price set by the panel.
Last year, the 59 sea cucumber licence holders (40 are temporary) remained tied up over price until early August — eventually fishing for 70¢/lb — 10¢/lb more than 2020, although the then-new grading protocols deducted about the same amount or more for water loss.
In fact, last year was the first year the FFAW negotiated the price of sea cucumbers.
In 2019 prior to the pandemic and the union stepping in, the price paid to harvesters was 80¢/lb, plus a 23% deduction for water loss.
In setting the sea cucumber price to start the 2022 season, the panel noted that it faced similar challenges to last year with "limited data on industry, logistics, its products, and yields,” meaning its impossible to say whether owner-operators are receiving a fair market share.
Sea cucumber production in this province consists primarily of two product forms: frozen whole, and dried. The vast majority of production is exported to China and Hong Kong.
Ryan Cleary, Executive Director, SEA-NL
To read more about SEA-NL, or to join the non-profit organization please visit sea-nl.ca