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The FFAW made the point of how much Quebec harvesters are paid for the same turbot as landed in Newfoundland during the union’s presentation about a week ago to the province’s fish price setting panel.
The FFAW argued the 2021 turbot price paid to NL harvesters should be set at $1.70/lb — a rollover of the 2020 price — which they got, but the price is well down from the $2/lb paid to harvesters in 2019.
And down from the $1.95/lb paid to Quebec harvesters this year for their turbot.
Find the panel's decision here.
Of course, 2019 was before the FFAW took over turbot price negotiations. Prior to that harvesters negotiated the turbot price on their own (and did better than the union).
Fish processors — represented by the Association of Seafood Producers (ASP) — said Quebec harvesters are paid more for their turbot because Quebec processors sell fresh fillets in central Canada.
But then there's always a reason why mainland harvesters are paid more.
‘SOLD IN THE WATER’
Another FFAW argument for setting the 2021 turbot price at $1.70/lb (ASP wanted to pay $1.50/lb) is that royalty payments for turbot “sold in the water” have increased in 2021.
The turbot fishery allows fish to be “sold in the water” whereby an allocation holder transfers the quota to another licence holder for a price agreed by both. The receiving licence holder fishes the turbot as their own.
No word on the going price for turbot “sold in the water,” or the amount of turbot that changes hands.
ASP ‘COMPROMISED’ ABILTY TO TURN PROFIT
It’s interesting to note that the ASP said they “overreached” by paying NL harvesters $2/lb for turbot between 2017-2019, but they did so because of “price competition for raw material, and the need to secure crab from turbot harvesters.”
According to the ASP, processors bid up prices to maintain relationships with harvesters and secure other species such as crab. As a result, they “compromised” their ability to turn a profit on turbot.”
Poor ol’ ASP.
EXPORT PRICES CONSISTENT
Most NL turbot exports go to China and Japan. Annual export prices of NL turbot have been consistent at about $3/lb over the past four years, although to date in 2021 the export values are up “slightly.”
The ASP has said that turbot frozen at sea (in offshore vessels) fetch a higher premium than inshore-caught turbot, but the processors offered “no factual evidence” on what the premium is (i.e. 5%, 10%, etc.), or the impact on the premium on inshore pricing.
The panel noted that while it did get some data on landings/production information from provincial Fisheries, it was "heavily reliant" on info contained in the FFAW/ASP submissions.
CANADA’S TURBOT SHARE PATHETIC
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?
What’s worse is that foreign trawlers are said to be dramatically overfishing their 85% share of turbot.
Turbot is managed in Canadian waters — not by Canada — but by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), which also oversees fishing outside the 200-mile limit
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.
Imagine if NL inshore harvesters tried to do that.