FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Tuesday, May 17th, 2022
Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) supports the issuance of new snow crab processing licenses as the quickest way to increase industry capacity, and reduce pressure on the inshore fleet to fish in potentially unsafe conditions.
“We see more processing licenses as the quickest way to take pressure off the inshore fleet,” says Ryan Cleary, SEA-NL’s executive director. “More competition in the processing sector should mean more opportunity for inshore boats to land crab quotas faster, with less expense, and safer for all hands.”
The province’s Fish Processing Licensing Board is reportedly considering four applications for snow crab processing licenses around the province, including one for St. Mary’s.
The licensing board has made a recommendation regarding the St. Mary’s application, but provincial Fisheries Minister Derek Bragg is said to be meeting with the board today before making a final decision.
Workers at some crab processing operations around the province including St. Lawrence, Bonavista, and Brigus have protested against the issuance of more licenses, arguing the move will mean less work at existing plants.
At the same time, the limited amount of processing capacity in the province has resulted in processors imposing trip limits and fishing schedules on the inshore fleet, which lost millions of dollars when they weren’t able to catch their quotas before Monday when the price dropped to $6.15/lb from $7.60/lb.
But the even bigger concern is the pressure that trip limits and fishing schedules put on enterprise owners to fish in questionable weather or to catch their quotas before soft shell or moulting crab shuts down a fishery, and the quotas are lost.
“More crab processing capacity will take pressure off the inshore fleet, and that’s the bottom line for SEA-NL,” said Cleary.
He added that over the longer term the province must correct the incredible power imbalance between owner-operators and processors by allowing in outside buyers, considering an auction system for fish pricing, and lobbying Ottawa to include fish pricing with amendments to the federal Competition Act.
“It’s critical the power imbalance be corrected so the inshore fleet is on the same footing as the processing sector,” Cleary said. “Anything less is unacceptable.”