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You can't tell the mind of a squid buyer; panel price may not result in yet another fishery

In the latest sign that this province's panel system of fish pricing has become a farce, squid talks between the FFAW and processors broke off even before negotiations began this week with the panel set to choose a price that may not result in a fishery. The same as northern shrimp, sea cucumber, and east coast capelin  and on top of the ongoing fiasco with snow crab and the "binding" price that buyers ignore.

Squid in Canadian waters is not managed by DFO, but by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, which (mis)manages stocks outside the 200-mile limit. The total allowable catch for squid is set at 34,000 tonnes for 2022, the same as 2021 and 2020.



Under a final offer-selection process, the government-appointed price-setting panel must choose either the 70¢/lb the FFAW put forward, or the tiered system below that the buyers have on the table:



Considering most owner-operators land at the wharf and not the plant, that's a big spread between the two offers, and will likely result in a price that either the inshore fleet won't fish for or processors won't buy for.


Which is the theme of this year's fishery.


Speculation is processors haven't made a killing at snow crab this year like they did in 2021, and are squeezing every cent from every other price.


WHAT HAPPENED IN SQUID TALKS?

The price-setting panel apparently turned down a request earlier this week by the Association of Seafood Producers (ASP) to postpone squid price negotiations until late August.


Buyers apparently have an issue with cold-storage space, and want fewer under 150g squid in the catch.


The panel ruled against the ASP, and once first offers were exchanged — 80¢/lb FFAW versus 25¢/lb ASP) — Derek Butler and his crew refused to talk to the union.


Then yesterday final offers were submitted — 70¢/lb from the FFAW vs the ASP's tiered system that could see a fall price as low as 30¢/lb.


Too often with fish price negotiations the fair price is in the middle, which is where the panel can't go.


There's no fixing stupid, the panel is done.


A rally in support of the shrimp fleet is scheduled for 2 p.m. this afternoon at the OCI plant in Port au Choix, but what's not clear is the FFAW ask.


Long term — it may be time for a Newfoundland Fishermen's Co-op, considering the success of Labrador's.


SHORT TERM — throw open the province's doors to outside buyers, and auction fish at the wharf.


2021 SQUID PRICE

The 2021 price paid to the inshore fleet for squid was 66¢/lb — a 14% drop from 2020's 77¢/lb, and well down from the $1/lb offered in 2019 before the worldwide pandemic.


Squid bait is used to catch highly lucrative snow crab, which reached as high as $7.60/lb this year and last.


Ryan Cleary,

Executive Director, SEA-NL

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