In a bold-faced violation of the collective agreement between the FFAW and Association of Seafood Producers — and a clear sign that the province's panel system of fish pricing has collapsed — at least one snow crab processor is offering inshore boats $4/lb for snow crab, $2.15/lb less than the minimum price of $6.15/lb.
Taken earlier this spring, a fishing boat on the southside of St. John's harbour prepares for the crab season
Paying one cent less than $6.15/lb is a breach of the “binding” price or collective agreement that the government-appointed panel imposed on the snow crab industry on May 16th.
The panel is now officially useless.
The inshore fleet won’t fish for prices set by the panel, and processors won’t buy for any more than what they’re prepared to pay.
That’s the case this season with northern shrimp, sea cucumber, capelin, and now snow crab.
It’s a mutiny of the panel system.
PROVINCE MUST STEP IN
This is the point that the provincial government must step in. (The FFAW won’t say much more than that, see the union's statement Wednesday about the ridiculously low 90¢/lb shrimp price.)
The Andrew Furey government must immediately move to help secure markets for the inshore fleets.
If that means swinging wide open the province’s doors to outside buyers. Do it.
If that means helping find/secure mainland buyers, and allowing the inshore fleet to truck product out of province. Do it.
But do it now — before fisheries like snow crab end. (87% of the province's just over 50,000-tonne crab quota has been landed.)
The inshore fleet must be able to sell its fish, or, make no mistake, rural Newfoundland and Labrador with suffer.
The province doesn’t tell oil companies where to sell or process oil drilled off our shores, so why does government do it with fishermen and fish?
What’s the difference? Refinery jobs pay a hell of a lot more than fish plants.
The inshore fishery is kicked around like a second-class industry, subject to economic bondage — boats are told when to fish, how much to fish, where to sell, and how much to sell for.
A final note: the downside of the province throwing open the doors to outside buyers could mean Ocean Choice International may truck fish to the company's new $20-million processing plant in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
Can’t make this up.
Executive Director, SEA-NL
To read more about SEA-NL, or to join the non-profit organization please visit sea-nl.ca