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World hungry for snow crab; NL inshore fleet should be paid $10/lb to start season

From where I stand, $10/lb would be a fair price to start the upcoming snow crab season considering it was the average of the $8/lb-$12/lb paid to inshore fleets in the Gulf of St. Lawrence over the course of the 2021 snow crab season, but we shall see.

Over the first 11 months of 2021, the value of snow crab in Newfoundland and Labrador reached $612 million — a 174% increase compared to all of 2020, DFO reported.




Last year's price paid to NL's inshore fleet was locked in at $7.60/lb on April 25th, meaning buyers made off like bandits when the price kept rising week after week to the point snow crab was described last fall as seafood treasure in world markets.


There was a report earlier this month that snow crab inventories from last year weren't selling, but then other reports from the end of last summer pointed to snow crab shortages continuing until early 2022.


While the question remains how an expected slowdown in spending by U.S. consumers will impact the demand/price for snow crab, the facts are that the United States has slapped a ban on Russian seafood, and the bottom fell out of the Alaskan snow crab fishery with an 88% cut to this year's quota.


Canadian snow crab will have a lot less competition into the U.S. (its biggest market) to help offset any impact or rising inflation triggered by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.


The one indisputable fact leading up to the start of the province's snow crab season in early April is the world (fishermen included) are hungry for fresh snow crab.


Once the initial snow crab price is set, both sides (the FFAW and Association of Seafood Producers) will have one opportunity under provincial government legislation to request price reconsideration, which is ridiculous.


It certainly didn't work for owner-operators last year.


PROBLEMS WITH PRICE-SETTING SYSTEM


In 2021, the initial snow crab price of $5.73/lb paid to NL harvesters was set by the province's fish price setting panel on March 31st.


Within weeks the FFAW used its one and only price reconsideration allowed under the provincial government system to see the panel lock in the final price to harvesters for the year at $7.60/lb on April 25th.



FAIR MARKET RETURN


SEA-NL wrote the provincial government on Nov. 5th to request that the regulation under the Standing Fish Price-Setting Panel that restricts each party to one price reconsideration per species be lifted, and the change be made prior to the start of the 2022 season.


In response, Bernard Davis, the minister responsible for labour relations, said on March 1st there's no need to overhaul the system.


“We’re happy with the process as it exists right now but if either side wants to look at either side, they can bring it forward and I would be more than willing to evaluate it,” he said.


SEA-NL and the FFAW-Unifor both proposed changes, but Davis said it's enough that harvesters and processors make money, which means he missed the point.


Both sides did make money from last year's snow crab fishery, but both sides did not realize a fair market return.


The province's Standing Fish Price Setting Panel has yet to release its schedule of hearings for 2022 to be held for particular species if collective agreements aren't hammered out by both sides by certain dates.


Ryan Cleary,

Executive Director, SEA-NL


To read more about SEA-NL, and for owner-operators to join please visit our website or e-mail sea-nl@outlook.com Sign SEA-NL's petition to the House of Commons on non-core commercial fishing licences here.

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