Snow crab harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador are deeply frustrated and fatigued by the provincial government’s continued mismanagement of the fishery. Two months into this fishing season, harvesters have faced roadblock after roadblock as a result of inaction by provincial Ministers Bragg and Davis. By refusing FFAW-Unifor’s call for additional processing licenses, outside buyers, and improved transparency, the few companies that control this province’s processing industry still have a stranglehold on thousands of harvesters in a bid to drive prices down.
“Trip limits and scheduling imposed by processing companies this season have been far in excess of what any harvester would consider reasonable or just. While most plants remain open at the present time, any plants shuttering operations while there is remaining quota left to harvest is deeply concerning,” says FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan.
“It’s a simple fact that there is not enough processing capacity to support the current snow crab fishery in our province. This year’s quota of 110 million pounds is a far cry from the 52 million it was just 3 years ago. Adding additional processing capacity for snow crab will not take away any current processing jobs – it will create new jobs for people in our rural communities and ease significant constraints experienced by harvesters,” Sullivan says.
In reality, the lack of capacity to handle other species is costing both harvesters and plant workers. Processing companies are refusing to purchase shrimp and sea cucumber from inshore harvesters which is impacting thousands of plant workers in the province in addition to the harvesters that rely on these fisheries. Ministers Bragg and Davis continue to protect companies and promote secrecy surrounding processing production and sales information in Newfoundland and Labrador, while companies refuse to buy a broad spectrum of species, leaving harvesters with absolutely no avenue to sell their catch.
Specifically, FFAW-Unifor has asked for: (1) The issuance of more processing licenses to companies that do not already hold crab licenses, (2) Legislation be passed capping the growth of the big 5 processing companies at current levels, (3) That the Fishing Industry Collective Bargaining Act be amended to include a second price reconsideration that allows for prices to be adjusted in line with the market, (4) That the Fishing Industry Collective Bargaining Act be amended to increase transparency and information sharing from the processing sector to provide more fairness in collective bargaining, (5) The need for outside buyers to increase wharf competition; and (6) The need for provincial government to prevent the illegal control of inshore fishing licenses.
The provincial government’s refusal to take meaningful steps towards addressing any concerns plaguing the inshore fishery is hurting the economic prosperity harvesters, plant workers and coastal communities – in silent support of merchant greed.
“It is a privileged position to hold a processing license in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is abundantly clear that something must be done by our government if these companies are refusing to operate while the fishery remains open,” concludes Sullivan.
For media inquiries, please contact Courtney Glode at [email protected] or text/call 709-743-4445.