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Letter to Telegram: Greg Pretty

April 14, 2023

April 13, 2023

Our coastal communities are facing the biggest crisis since the northern cod moratorium. And that’s not hyperbole.

Thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians rely on the snow crab fishery through fishing on boats, processing in plants, and all of the jobs on the wharf and in between. Not to mention the businesses who rely on the economic spinoffs.

From Port aux Basques up through Corner Brook, Grand-Falls-Windsor, Gander, through to Clarenville and St. John’s.  It’s the fishery that fuels and feeds this province.

In 2022, the snow crab fishery alone was worth over $800 million for our province. Losing that kind of money into our economy this year is going to have harsh consequences in the form of mass unemployment and bankruptcies.

We know the market situation is not what it was last year. We’re not ignorant to the fact that luxury seafood is taking a hit as the globe reels from a post-pandemic economy and sky-high inflation compounded by international conflicts.

But the price of 2.20, the price the Panel chose, is not in line with those market declines.

The price of $2.20 is simply not viable for fish harvesters. With the increased costs of fuel, bait, and food, they’d be fishing at a loss, and so the choice was made to go bankrupt at the wharf unless some movement can be made.

What we need is to is negotiate a meaningful resolution to our current situation. Something that both parties can live with, and something that will get our harvesters back on the water sooner rather than later. And I believe it’s entirely within the scope of our provincial government to facilitate that.

The Panel’s ill-fated decision was not unanimous, and as a result the province has the authority to intervene and force both parties back to the negotiating table. This is something we’re encouraging our provincial representatives to take very seriously.

Our Union believes that the parties could move closer together, or potentially continue discussions on a price formula that would better split the risk between parties. The current price of $2.20 puts all of the market downturn solely onto inshore fish harvesters, and off of the processing companies. Herein lies the fundamental issue, and of course the core issue our Union has been fighting for since its inception over 50 years ago.

Why should multi-million-dollar processing companies be afforded the privilege of assuming all of the reward and none of the risk? Because these companies will still be around after a bad year of crab. Meanwhile, there are many inshore enterprises that don’t have that privilege and without a doubt we will see bankruptcies this year.

So, Premier Furey, Minister Bragg, Minister Davis, send us back to the table. There’s too much at stake to let it stay in the water.

Greg Pretty, President, FFAW-Unifor