Two months late into the season — and facing the gales and tropical storms of late summer on the St. Pierre Bank off southern Newfoundland— the sea cucumber fleet has ended its tie-up without getting the concessions it was looking for, and boats are steaming to the fishing grounds. Negotiations were a joke from the get-go.
Each sea cucumber licence holders has a harvesting cap of 260,000/lbs (118 tonnes) of sea cucumber round weight for the season.
The 59 sea cucumber licence holders (40 are temporary) will fish for 70¢/lb — 10¢/lb more than last year, but new grading protocols will deduct about the same amount or more for water loss.
This is the first year the FFAW has negotiated the price of sea cucumbers. In 2019 prior to the pandemic and the union stepping in, the price paid to harvesters was 80¢/lb.
The coming weather won't be an issue for the bigger, 65-footers in the sea cucumber fleet, but it will be for the under 40' fleet.
The other challenge that will be faced by the fleet this season will be limited sea cucumber processing capacity, which may mean harvesters have to remain in port to wait their turn to fish.
Besides representing sea cucumber fishermen in price talks, the FFAW also represents workers at OCI's sea cucumber processing operation in St. Lawrence, and Clearwater's Grand Bank plant.
Those workers need sea cucumber work to ensure they qualify for EI this winter.
JOKE FROM THE GET-GO
It's fair to say negotiations were a joke from the get-go — with the province's price-setting panel initially setting the 2021 price at 60¢/lb on June 2nd — while admitting it was "significantly challenged" in terms of the industry, logistics, its products, and yields.
SEA-NL wrote about it here.
At the same time, the panel also signed off on new grading protocols with little objection (besides raising an objection) from the FFAW.
There's no doubt the FFAW dropped the ball on this one (it was not prepared for price negotiations), and the price-setting panel clearly has too much power when it can dictate rules in a fishery it knows nothing about.
Undercurrent news published an article earlier this month about how Ecuador is resuming its sea cucumber fishery in Galapagos after a six-year ban. The last paragraph was most interesting.
“On average, each kilogram of sea cucumbers is worth around $80 in the Galapagos, but once exported to the Asian market, its price can go up to at least between $1,000/kg and $1,200/kg, as they are considered precious creatures and a luxurious delicacy.” Find that article here.
The sea cucumber fishery had a landed value in 2019 of almost $9 million, according to the province's 2019 Seafood Industry in Review.
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