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FFAW proposed 2¢/lb for lobster marketing unjustified; better ways to increase price to harvesters

The union is holding meetings to ask lobster harvesters permission to tack 2¢/lb on the price they're paid for lobster — with the $210,000-plus raised to pay for marketing. It was only in 2016 that the FFAW tried/failed to introduce a 5¢/lb levy on the lobster price to pay for the union's "management" of that fishery. (The buyers voted it down; most harvesters didn't know about it).

According to DFO figures, 10.6 million/lbs (4,805 tonnes) of lobster were landed last year in the Newfoundland and Labrador region

A vote on the FFAW's lobster levy was to be held Friday at the Corner Brook meeting, but was postponed. (These unofficial votes are a joke, and should be replaced by formal, electronic votes that include the participation of all owner-operators.)

The FFAW staff-rep reportedly said most harvesters at other meetings were for the 2¢/lb levy, which would see some harvesters pay more than others, depending on landings.

Most owner-operators contacted by SEA-NL are against the charge, and so they should be after the FFAW's 2016 attempt to secretly introduce the 5¢/lb lobster levy.

The quickest way to increase the lobster price to harvesters is for the province to open the door to outside buyers.

Nothing works like competition to drive up price.

As well, before addressing markets, the FFAW is advised to tackle problems highlighted by the province's fish price-setting panel.

Lobsters from this province may not be sold until after the season is over — and prices rise — but the province's fish price setting panel (as noted in its decision last year on the lobster price-setting formula) has no way to verify whether lobster fishermen are receiving a fair market share.

I would say they are not.

The Association of Seafood Producers withholds information for a reason — to protect its higher market share.

The panel has also highlighted that lobster prices in the Maritimes were somewhat higher than in Newfoundland and Labrador, but the panel couldn't be more specific because the Association of Seafood Producers wouldn't release the information.

If the price-setting panel cannot get answers to fundamental questions in setting the price of fish, then it is ineffective.

Burgeo, Newfoundland. In 2020, there were 2,200 active lobster harvesters in the province.

Lobster (Opening week highs)

2021 —$9.96/lb

2020 — $6.76/lb

2019 — $6.47/lb

2018 — $8.11/lb

2017 — $9.86/lb

2016 — $6.20/lb

2015 — $7.55/lb

2014 — $6.61/lb

2013 — $5.37/lb

2012 — $4.59/lb

The shore price for lobster in southwest Nova Scotia just before Christmas was reportedly in the $11/lb range.

Next to snow crab, lobster is the province’s second most valuable fishery by landed value, with the fishery's value projected to grow by up to 50% to $200 million in 2024 from $100 million in 2019.

That's based on an increase in lobster landings to 15 million/lbs in 2024 from 10 million/lbs in 2019.

Those projections were contained in a 2020 application by the FFAW to take over the Atlantic Fisheries Fund's lobster gear program, which was later approved. The project total costs were estimated at $9.2 million.

Most lobster licenses are based on the south coast from Placentia Bay to Port-aux-Basques, and on the west coast from Port aux Basques to Eddie's Cove (near Anchor Point in the Strait of Belle Isle) — representing 94% of all lobsters landed in the province in 2019.

There are around 2,100 active commercial lobster licences in Newfoundland and Labrador, most on the west and south coasts, but the fishery is increasingly important to harvesters on the northeast coast as water temperatures warm.

Lobster landings on Newfoundland's east coast rose to 267 tonnes in 2019 from 128 tonnes in 2014.

Ryan Cleary,


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