By wash its hands, the Furey administration has said it will “not intervene” in the case of two shrimp fishermen from Port au Choix who were denied ice from local supplies in early May because they planned to sell their catches in New Brunswick. Fee market be damned in rural Newfoundland, in other words.
The Challenger 88 and Nightbreaker, two Port au Choix-based 65-footers, were refused ice by local companies in early May because they planned to sell their shrimp catches across the Gulf.
Enterprise owners Barry Plowman and Calvin Gould were geared up at the wharf in early May ready to fish shrimp in the Gulf, but at least four local suppliers refused to sell them ice for fear of being "put out of business" by the local processing company that usually buys their shrimp.
The enterprise owners had a buyer lined up in New Brunswick, where they planned to sell their catches for a better price than the $1.08/lb average price set on April 25th by the province’s price-setting panel.
SEA-NL wrote Premier Andrew Furey on May 5th to request an immediate investigation.
Furey's office handed off the letter to Derrick Bragg, minister responsible for fisheries, to respond — which he did on May 26th, almost three weeks later.
BRAGG MISREAD THE LETTER
Not only did Bragg not contact the fishermen, he misread the letter, taking it that it was the "local processors" that wouldn't sell the ice instead of the local independent ice-making companies.
This is a paragraph from Bragg's letter.
'GOVERNMENT NOT IN A POSITION TO INTERVENE'
Bragg went on to say that "Fish Inspection Operations Regulations" do not permit outside buyers to operate in Newfoundland and Labrador due to the minimum processing requirements (MPRs).
"Bringing in outside buyers would directly impact plant workers in rural communities throughout the province that rely on the fishery and also affect in direct jobs that service the industry."
Ironically, processors bring in hundreds of outside workers (temporary foreign workers) every year to work at plants around the province.
According to the Association of Seafood Producers, the province's 22 snow crab processing plants employ 45 to 125 seasonal temporary foreign workers per plant.
No to outside buyers, but fill your boots with outside workers.
HOW DOES THAT MAKE SENSE?
As for Barry Plowman and Calvin Gould, they (and other inshore enterprise owners like them) have since quietly gotten ice from local companies, and have been landing shrimp across the Gulf.
It is clear that the provincial government is not prepared to address the unacceptable level of control that fish processors regularly exert over the inshore fleet — even if it means local boats landing on the mainland.
More and more enterprise owners describe their predicament as a “hostage situation” given the lack of freedom to move freely between buyers or to sell catches to out-of-province buyers (an option only open to bigger boats in the fleet).
At one point during the almost seven-week tie-up over the snow crab price, FFAW President Greg Pretty said the Competition Bureau should investigate the lack of competition in the inshore fishery.
Pretty was obviously unaware that fish pricing in this province is excluded from the federal Competition Act.
SEA-NL wrote Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in May 2022 to request that fish price be included in the Act, but his office has yet to respond more than a year later.
In the letter to Premier Furey, SEA-NL also made an official request for a 2nd, broader investigation into this province’s broken system of fish pricing.
Bragg said he would leave it to Bernard Davis, the Labour minister, to respond.
I'll say it again, it's hard to expect government to fix the problem when government is the problem.
Executive Director, SEA-NL
Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is a professional, non-profit organization that serves as the distinct voice for licensed, independent owner-operator inshore fish harvesters. Visit sea-nl.ca to join.