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South coast sea cucumber fleet remains tied-up; DFO doesn't use controversial grading protocols

The new protocols measure a sea cucumber catch for water loss, and ultimately drive down the already agree-to 70¢/lb price to inshore harvesters. Only why have water-loss protocols in the first place? DFO doesn't.

The 2021 price of sea cucumbers landed at the wharf is 70¢/lb in Newfoundland and Labrador, but the dried product can sell in Asian markets for up to $1,200/kg.

Each of the 59 sea cucumber licence holders (40 are actually temporary) who operate off Newfoundland's south coast (fishing zone 3Ps) has a harvesting cap of 260,000/lbs (118 tonnes) of sea cucumber round weight for the season.

Round weight is the weight calculated by dockside monitors when the boat lands at the wharf, and it's applied against a harvester's cap.

DFO does not measure for water loss.

So why do processors?

Harvesters would rather be paid by the round weight at the wharf.

It's simpler, and then there would only be price to worry about.

The new grading protocols were introduced in the sea cucumber fishery on June 2 by the province's fish price-setting panel — with little objection/debate from the FFAW-Unifor (other than the objection itself).

This is the first year sea cucumbers were negotiated before the panel, which admitted in its report (find it here) to having precious little information on industry/logistics/ products/yields (and unable to pry it free from processors) — let alone protocols to measure water loss.

Atlantic-wide exports of dried sea cucumber products to the US reached $51.24/lb in 2020.

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.

The sea cucumber dispute also impacts workers at plants represented by the FFAW in St. Lawrence (OCI), and Grand Bank (Clearwater). In the case of the St. Lawrence operation, workers there need sea cucumber work to ensure they qualify for EI this winter.

Ryan Cleary,


Read other SEA-NL articles on sea cucumber:

Independent licensed owner-operators are encouraged to join SEA-NL here. These blog posts will be public for a limited time, before becoming exclusive to the membership.

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