FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Tuesday, May 3rd, 2022
Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is demanding Premier Andrew Furey address trip limits in the snow crab fishery or his government may have blood on its hands before the end of the fishing season.
“The inshore fleet has one of the most dangerous jobs without trip limits adding to the risk, as well as owner-operators being told when to fish, and when not to fish,” says Ryan Cleary, Executive Director of SEA-NL.
“Trip limits and fishing times put pressure on enterprise owners — who are also dealing with the threat of a price drop, and fishery closures in the case of molting or soft-shell crab — to fish in weather they would not ordinarily fish in,” he added.
“If government stands idly by and lives are lost this crab fishing season the province will have to answer for them directly.”
Snow crab buyers brought in trip limits last week on the inshore fleet to slow down the amount landed. Owner-operators are also being told when to fish. For example, some boats were tied to the wharf this past weekend when the weather was good, only to be told today they can head to sea on Wednesday to catch their assigned trip limit.
Larger inshore boats have weekly trip limits of 20,000/lbs and up, while some smaller boats in the fleet are capped at 3,000/lb. With trip limits, a crab quota that could be landed in a week could take a month or longer to bring in.
Enterprise owners are forced to make more trips to sea in weather that’s worsening with climate change, driving up fishing costs by thousands of dollars for fuel alone.
“Trip limits and being told when to fish are an accident waiting to happen,” says Merv Wiseman, an outspoken advocate for fishing vessel safety who also sits on SEA-NL’s executive board. “The economic pressure on fish harvesters to meet trip limits, and to stick to fishing times imposed by processors means they will go to sea in unsafe conditions.”
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.
“It is unacceptable that local buyers are allowed to bring in crab for processing while the inshore fleet is held hostage, and it is illegal for them to truck out their crab,” said Cleary.
The FFAW-Unifor has been quiet on the issue of trip limits, but then the union represents workers at unionized crab plants, while also representing the inshore fleet.
SEA-NL takes the stand that the provincial government should immediately allow out-of-province buyers to operate here on a level playing field with local processors/buyers.
SEA-NL also called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week to include fish price negotiations under the federal Competition Act, which is under active review.
To date, 29% of this year’s 50,470-tonne snow crab quota for Newfoundland and Labrador has been landed.
Executive Director, SEA-NL