Panel-system of fish pricing has collapsed: SEA-NL

Monday, July 4th, 2022 – Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) says the panel system of fish pricing in this province has collapsed, with the panel either setting prices that will not result in a fishery, or processors ignoring prices and unilaterally setting their own.

SEA-NL is calling on the provincial government to immediately step in and restore confidence in fish pricing.

“The panel system has become a joke not only here in Newfoundland and Labrador, but with fishermen right around Eastern Canada laughing at us,” says Ryan Cleary, SEA-NL’s executive director.

In mid-May the provincial government-appointed price-setting panel set the latest price for snow crab paid to the inshore fleet at $6.15/lb.

Processors refused to buy crab for that price, but then last week Green’s Seafood Ltd. — a buyer whose crab is processed at Quinlan’s Bay de Verde operation — began charging inshore boats for services such as ice, offloading, discharging, freight and logistics that were always included in the price paid to fishermen for their catch.

Owner-operators figure the new charges would drive down the snow crab price to $3.70/lb from $6.15/lb.

Green’s has told owner-operators they must sign a paper agreeing to the news costs or the company will not buy from them. (A copy of the agreement is attached).

The information has been forwarded to provincial Fisheries Minister Derek Bragg.

“That’s a bold-faced violation of the collective agreement between the FFAW and Association of Seafood Producers, and a clear sign that the province’s panel system of fish pricing has collapsed,” Cleary said.

“The panel is now officially useless. Paying one cent less than $6.15/lb for crab is a breach of the binding price or collective agreement that the panel imposed on May 16th.”

In its written decision last week that set the summer shrimp price at 90¢/lb, the panel said the final price may not result in a fishery — and it hasn’t.

“The panel members should have resigned when they wrote that given the impossibility of the challenge they faced,” Cleary added. “The panel system of fish pricing in this province is unravelling on the watch of Fisheries Minister Derek Bragg, and so far he and his government aren’t doing a tap about it.”

Contact Ryan Cleary: 682 4862