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Turbot: $1.85/lb to NL's inshore fleet, $2.05/lb to Quebec fishermen

Those prices aren’t SEA-NL stirring the pot. They’re front and centre in a June 3rd report by the province’s fish price-setting panel that set the price of turbot to our inshore fleet to start the 2022 season at $1.85/lb — 20¢/lb less than Quebec fishermen are paid.

Turbot is managed in Canadian waters — not by Canada — but by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), which also oversees (badly) fishing on the high seas outside the country's 200-mile limit.



The Association of Seafood Producers says Quebec fishermen fetch a higher price for turbot because their fish is sold fresh to central Canada whereas NL turbot is shipped to Asian markets like Japan and China.

But then there’s always a reason for underpaying NLers.


UNION'S INVOLVEMENT SET BACK TURBOT PRICE

The FFAW only began negotiating the price of turbot in 2020.

Over the three years prior to that, the turbot price paid to the inshore fleet averaged $2/lb in a market-sharing arrangement that saw two-thirds go to harvesters, and one-third to processors.

In 2020 and 2021 — again, after the FFAW got involved in turbot negotiations — the panel decided the price, choosing $1.70/lb as put forward by the union.


Only the turbot market over those two pandemic years did better than expected, and the market share to harvesters actually declined to 55-56%. (The panel outlines all this information in its June 3rd price report.)


This year’s rise in the turbot price to $1.85/lb from $1.70/lb only raises the harvester’s share to 60%.


When it comes to the turbot fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador, offshore and mid-shore quotas, as well as special allocations, can be transferred or "sold-in-the-water” in exchange for royalty payments.

Inshore enterprises cannot transfer turbot allocations.


Under NAFO rules, foreign countries can use what’s called the “exceptional circumstances protocol” to keep fishing turbot even when their quotas have been reached if the catch rates are good.

Finally, it must always be noted that Canada’s share of the turbot (also known as Greenland halibut) quota — from the edge of the continental shelf to the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador (fishing zones 3LMNO) — is 15%.

How pathetic is that?


You can bet Canada’s share didn’t start out at 15%.

If a strong fishery/access to resource doesn’t represent a critical economic lifeline to Newfoundland and Labrador — what does?


Maybe one of Canada's representatives at NAFO — Keith Sullivan of the FFAW, who serves as a commissioner — can raise that point at the next meeting.


Ryan Cleary, Executive Director, SEA-NL To read more about SEA-NL, or to join the non-profit organization please visit sea-nl.ca

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