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Lobster pricing decided this week; FFAW to charge 2¢ levy (without members' consent) on every pound

It's a good sign for the 2022 lobster season in Newfoundland and Labrador when lobster landed across the Gulf in Nova Scotia is described as "gold plated," with wharf prices peaking at $19.50/lb a few weeks ago (the highest in commercial history), and now hovering at $14.50/lb.

DFO estimates 4,984 tonnes (11 million/lbs) of lobster were landed in waters around Newfoundland and Labrador in 2021 — up 130% from 2,168 tonnes (4.7 million/lbs) in 2013. Canadian lobster exports reached a whopping $3.26 billion last year, beating the previous $2.59 billion record, set in 2019, by over 25%.



Here in this province, the lobster price paid to the inshore fleet is based on a formula, and differs from week to week.


The inshore fleet is paid around 70% of the Canadian dollar value of the average live market price for lobsters as reported by Urner Barry Publications.


During the Lobster season, which begins this month, the price is adjusted each week by the exchange rate, and the U.S. market price. (The opening lobster price in mid April last year was $9.96/lb.)


Negotiations were held last week between the FFAW and Association of Seafood Producers on lobster pricing for the 2022 season, but the two sides did not reach an agreement.


The ASP position is Urner Barry minus 15¢/lb, while the union's stand is full Urner Barry with no deductions.


In 2021, the price-setting panel went with the FFAW position of Urner Barry minus 11¢/lb.


The province's price-setting panel is scheduled to choose one price or the other by Wednesday.


FFAW 2¢/LB LOBSTER LEVY

What's a given this lobster season is that the FFAW has tacked a 2¢/lb levy on every pound of lobster sold by the inshore fleet without a clear mandate from the membership to do so.


SEA-NL wrote about it here: FFAW imposes 2¢/lb lobster levy despite members rejecting idea; processors told news first


SEA-NL almost immediately published an online poll — with 94.2% of respondents against the introduction of a lobster levy without the clear consent of owner-operators.



Many owner-operators rejected the levy outright at FFAW meetings this past winter, and contacted SEA-NL to make it clear where they stand.


The fact that the FFAW can introduce a lobster levy without the membership's clear consent is a black eye on democracy/the labour movement.


As for how the union can do it, see the FFAW constitution (page 27 deals with revenue and adjustment).


If DFO can poll owner-operators in this province about boat length, the FFAW can arrange a vote of owner-operators on whether they agree with a lobster levy.


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, and it was actually the buyers who voted it down; most harvesters didn't know about it.


Next to snow crab, lobster is the province’s second most valuable fishery, with landings projected to grow to 15 million/lbs in 2024.


There are 2,125 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.


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 sea-nl@outlook.com Please sign SEA-NL's petition to the House of Commons on non-core commercial fishing licences here.

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