There’s a 13-cent spread between the FFAW’s 68¢/lb suggested price for sea cucumbers to be paid to the inshore fleet to start the upcoming season, and the 55¢/lb on the table from the Association of Seafood Producers. The price-setting panel will choose one or the other (and, by law, no where in between).
Each sea cucumber licence holder has a harvesting cap of 260,000/lbs (118 tonnes) of sea cucumber round weight. The sea cucumber fishery off Newfoundland's south coast in fishing zone 3Ps opened last year on June 1, but the fleet didn't fish until August in a dispute over price.
The FFAW also has an offer on the table to deduct 28% off the sea cucumbers weight across the board to account for water loss.
As with last year, the ASP wants to check the water content every time a boat lands, and apply a water-deduction formula.
According to the price-setting panel's 2022 scheduled, the sea cucumber price must be set by June 3rd.
Last year, the 59 sea cucumber licence holders (40 are temporary) remained tied up over price until early August — eventually fishing for 70¢/lb — 10¢/lb more than 2020, although the then-new grading protocols deducted about the same amount or more for water loss.
In fact, last year was the first year the FFAW 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, plus a 23% deduction for water loss.
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.
The province's price-setting panel initially set 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.
At the same time, the panel also signed off on new grading protocols with little objection (besides raising an objection) from the FFAW.
The sea cucumber fishery had a landed value in 2019 of almost $9 million, according to the province's 2019 Seafood Industry in Review.
Undercurrent news published an article last summer 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.”
SEA CUCUMBER SURVEY CANCELLED LAST YEAR
DFO had planned a shellfish survey last year to focus on 3Ps sea cucumber, but it was cancelled for the third consecutive year because of mechanical problems with the Canadian Coast Guard research vessel Needler.
According to internal DFO memos obtained by SEA-NL through the federal Access to Information Act, the stock was last assessed in 2017 and resource managers had requested the survey to evaluate the impact of increased quotas in recent years.
The survey delays also mean the scientific information on scallops is "quite dated."
Make no mistake, DFO must get its scientific act together.