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FFAW outmaneuvered — again; province's price-setting panel should be scuttled

The FFAW is telling members to go fishing, but for the shockingly low price of $7.60/lb to start the 2022 snow crab season ($4.40/lb less than was paid in Nova Scotia last week), the inshore fleet should be in no rush to fish. The province's price-setting panel itself appears to have been manipulated to drive down the price, and Earle McCurdy, should accept part of the blame as a distraction, and step down.

Fishing boats at Fort Amherst (Prosser's Rock) small boat basin on the south side of St. John's harbour were gearing up Friday, April 1st, for the upcoming snow crab fishery.

The $7.60/lb to start the snow crab season is far from a rollover from last year's price when increased fuel costs are carried by the inshore fleet alone.

Mainland buyers are apparently still prepared to pay $12/lb for snow crab at the wharf in Nova Scotia for any Newfoundland and Labrador boats that make the steam, and the inshore fleet should expect to see offers in the coming days.

Local boats will have to get serious about making the trip after few of them did last year, but the steam will be less attractive because of rising fuel costs

Smaller boats in the inshore fleet can't make the trip, and suffer most from lower prices/poor price negotiations because they aren't paid bonuses later in the year.

The view from the south side of St. John's harbour. The snow crab fishery opens Monday, April 4th, in some waters around Newfoundland, with the remaining areas opened by April 24th at the latest. This province's snow crab fishery is Canada's largest.


The Association of Seafood Producers (ASP) and Derek Butler cleaned the FFAW's clock on price negotiations, using Earle McCurdy's appointment to the panel against the union.

Had the panel held the March 25th hearing as scheduled to decide the initial 2022 snow crab price — and not been delayed a week to deal with the ASP's challenge of McCurdy's appointment to the panel, which the FFAW described as "deliberate manipulation" of the process — the crab price likely would have been set $9.05/lb.

But then the price of snow crab dropped after that.

Did the ASP know the price was headed down?

On March 24th — the day before the panel was initially set to hold a hearing to decide the snow crab price — news broke that the U.S. ban on Russian seafood (including snow crab) had been extended by three months until June 23rd.

Thousand more tonnes of Russian seafood will now enter the U.S. before the supply is cut off, which will certainly impact price.

McCurdy's appointment to the panel was a clear distraction that cost the inshore fleet $1.45/lb on snow crab.

He should do the right thing, and resign.

The FFAW won on the McCurdy appeal (find the panel's ruling here), but ultimately lost on price.

The union was outplayed by the ASP, and it is not the first time.

The ASP outplayed/out smarted the FFAW last spring in price negotiations for sea cucumber when processors proposed new rules to measure water loss that also caught the FFAW off guard.

The rules were adopted with little debate or opposition, costing the inshore fleet dearly.


The FFAW is advising members to fish and get some crab on the market, but there's a risk in that fishermen may miss out on a higher price down the road.

In 2021, the initial snow crab price to start the season was set at $5.73/lb on March 31st, but there were reports almost immediately of higher mainland prices of up to $8/lb.

By April 25, the FFAW had used its only price appeal (a.k.a. reconsideration) under the panel system of fish pricing to lock in the final price for the year $7.60/lb.

Given today's low snow crab price, the inshore fleet should not race to the fishing grounds to catch its quota.

The price of food around the world is headed up — not down.

In the long term, the province's panel system of fish pricing must be replaced (possibly with an auction system to better reflect quality/market prices).

In the short term the province must add as many price reconsiderations as necessary so that the inshore fleet achieves a fair market price.

The province's has also learned that Derek Butler of the ASP — who said that the province's snow crab should be priced as much as $3/lb less than crab caught in the Gulf — is no-holds barred when it comes to paying the inshore fleet as little as possible.

The inshore fleet must get smarter, and just as cut-throat.

Calling for outside buyers or a new Urner Barry-pricing system for snow crab or holding rallies around the province don't count for much when they're at the 11th hour.

The union just looks desperate.

Ryan Cleary,

Executive Director, SEA-NL

To read more about SEA-NL, and for owner-operators to join please visit our website or e-mail Please sign SEA-NL's petition to the House of Commons on non-core commercial fishing licences here.

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