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Processors have all the power when it comes to trip limits, and telling boats when to fish

The takeaway from the FFAW/union lawyer’s statement on trip limits/boats being told when to fish/not to fish is that buyers/processors appear to have all the power to do as they wish, and the FFAW's hands are tied under a weak master collective agreement.

The south side of St. John's harbour, home to the largest fishing fleet in the province at Fort Amherst (Prosser's Rock) Small Boat Basin, on a recent foggy evening.

The FFAW released the statement on Wednesday evening (May 4th), the day after SEA-NL issued this news release: Trip limits must be addressed in crab fishery or Furey gov may have blood on its hands: SEA-NL

Fisheries and Oceans in this province has said for years that weekly limits may be forcing fishermen to fish in dangerous conditions.

Trip limits — along with being told when to fish/not to fish — increase the pressure on owner-operators to fish in weather they would not ordinarily fish in, and dramatically increase costs with more trips to sea

Then there's the pressure of a possible drop in the price of crab, and threat of soft shell leading to a fishery closure — all of which combine to create conditions for an accident waiting to happen.


Turns out trip limits are allowed under the collective agreement between the FFAW and Association of Seafood Producers — just not in all fishing areas, or times of the year.

Few inshore harvesters have read their collective agreement (which the FFAW doesn't post on its site), but then union members don't vote on the agreement — just as they don't vote on individual fish prices (a.k.a. contracts), which are also imposed.

I wonder how that would go over with with NAPE's rank and file?

Below are the trip limits by fleet as outlined in the crab schedule — which is apparently a part of the collective agreement (although not included in my 2018 copy):

Based on the FFAW's crab schedule, processors/buyers cannot impose a trip limit on the under 40’ fleet in fishing zone 3L.

Only they are.

The FFAW could file a grievance if an enterprise owner comes forward with a complaint, but good luck getting a resolution before the end of the crab season.

At the same time, the chances of winning such a grievance are probably remote, and, in fact, there's a good chance processors are within their rights to tell enterprise owners when to fish/not to fish.

Article 8 of the FFAW's collective agreements states: “for the purpose of the efficiency and compliance with statutory obligations, a Processor has the right to make reasonable rules and regulations not inconsistent with this agreement.”

That seems to give buyers all the power they need.

Such contract language is incredibly weak, and must be addressed.

While trip limits/fishing times are forced on the inshore fleet, snow crab is reportedly being trucked into the province for processing at local plants from the Maritimes and Quebec, as well as from the French islands of St-Pierre-Miquelon.

The provincial government controls fish processing, and can open the door to out-of-provincial buyers or increase the number of processing licenses as a way to address the power imbalance between processors and the inshore fleet.

Doing nothing is not an option, and, to repeat, if lives are lost this crab fishing season the province will have to answer for them directly.

To date, 31% of this year’s 50,470-tonne snow crab quota for Newfoundland and Labrador has been landed.

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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