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ASP plays historic poor mouth leading into 2023 crab season (but must open books and prove it)

The generational distrust between fishermen and processors didn't just fade away last week when the FFAW and Association of Seafood Producers (ASP) sucked on a public peace pipe. The books must be opened to reveal how much snow crab exactly remains in cold-storage, and how much of that inventory was purchased by local processors from the Maritimes, Quebec, and St-Pierre and Miquelon?

The FFAW and ASP usually go head to head over price negotiations, but both sides are working together this year on a formula to set the snow crab price. Pricing formulas exist in the lobster and halibut fisheries, and are tied to actual market returns. Such a crab pricing formula was tried in the past, but was abandoned.



OPEN THE BOOKS

ASP said last week they were still trying to “get a handle" on the amount of snow crab that remains in cold-storage (with primary producers here, and in mainland markets), although they said the inventory was worth “at least” $100-million."


The ASP certainly didn’t deny the 30% figure raised by the media, and first thrown out by MP Clifford Small in his defence of Canadian snow crab markets in Asia.


But playing poor mouth isn't enough — processors/buyers must open their books.


The problem is they won't.


The price-setting panel has never been able to get any hard and fast data out of the ASP, and the provincial government isn't prepared to make them release it.


For its part, the FFAW can only press processors/buyers so hard on price, mindful that unionized plant jobs (new FFAW President Greg Pretty's specialty) may hang in the balance.


At stake is $758 million — the landed value of this province’s 2022 snow crab fishery — the most profitable in our history, worth more than all other commercial fisheries combined — and the bar set for all future fisheries.


WHAT CRAB REMAINS IN INVENTORY?

Buyers/processors brought snow crab into the province last year to be processed — from both the Maritimes/Quebec, and the French islands of St-Pierre-Miquelon.

Is that the snow crab that remains in inventory?


DFO doesn’t have any idea how much snow crab is being landed by French boats from St-Pierre and Miquelon.

That’s because snow crab isn’t included in Canada’s bilateral treaty with France (which takes in the French islands off Newfoundland’s south coast), and as a result the two countries don’t share info on landings/quota.


It bears repeating that while processors can ship snow crab into the province for processing, it is illegal for the inshore fleet to to truck out its catch.


Hard to have trust in the absence of simple fairness.


Ryan Cleary,

Executive Director, SEA-NL

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is a professional, non-profit organization serving as the distinct voice for licensed, independent owner-operator inshore fish harvesters.

Reach me at sea-nl@outlook.com.

Visit sea-nl.ca to join or register for the Feb. 25th AGM in Gander.

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