Earlier today, the Association of Seafood Producers (ASP) held a press conference where they attempted to further drive a wedge between fishing fleets in order to get a crab fishery started at bottom of the barrel prices. FFAW-Unifor, the union that represents all 10,000 inshore fish harvesters as well as over 3000 onshore processing workers, continues to call for changes to the price setting structure in Newfoundland and Labrador, which currently puts all of the market risk and downturn onto harvesters and coastal communities.
“The Negotiating Committee was clear that 2.20 was not a viable price to fish at. It wasn’t a viable price 2 weeks ago, on Friday, or today, and it won’t be viable tomorrow or next week,” says FFAW-Unifor President Greg Pretty. “A disingenuous offer to fish for 3 weeks at 2.20 would only serve to help a very select few in the industry, while the vast majority of harvesters would be left in the lurch. The companies are manipulating a broken system and it’s unacceptable,” Pretty says.
Approximately 7,500 fish harvesters and plant workers in our province rely on the snow crab fishery. With a reduction in prices this year of over 60%, fish harvesters are facing an economic crisis on par with the collapse of northern cod when it comes to potential monetary losses and bankruptcies.
Corporate concentration and control are pervasive in the inshore fishery, and vessels that are owned and controlled by companies and others are being pressured to fish at prices that are uneconomical to most owner-operators. The result is an industry in turmoil, with all involved concerned for what it means for the future of the important snow crab fishery.
“We have a mounting crisis on our hands, and our provincial government remains silent save for a few proverbial thoughts and prayers. The price selection process in our province is completely broken, and our communities are going to pay the price,” says Pretty. “For too long, we’ve had a provincial fisheries minister who has been a spectator, instead of an engaged regulator. Hoping the market improves isn’t good enough. We need action or we need a new Minister,” Pretty says.
FFAW-Unifor continues to lobby for a snow crab formula that would transparently set the prices paid to harvesters based on actual market, yield and sales information.
The Union will be meeting with the Inshore Council and Crab Chairs this evening for a brief update.