SEA-NL calls for elimination of province’s farcical system of fish pricing before fisheries lost

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador is calling for the elimination of the provincial government’s final-offer system of fish pricing in favour of direct negotiations between the union and processors until contracts are hammered out that both sides respect.

“There is no point in government being involved in negotiating the price of fish when its appointed panel does not have the power to enforce one price or the other, and its decisions do not result in commercial fisheries,” says Ryan Cleary, SEA-NL’s Executive Director.

“The existing system has collapsed with processors refusing to buy for the prices that are set, and inshore fleets remaining tied to the wharf,” he added. “Both sides must stick it out at the negotiating table until a price or contract is hammered out like with any other collective agreement.”

Under the final-offer selection system of fish pricing, a provincial government-appointed panel steps in when the FFAW-Unifor, and Association of Seafood Producers can’t reach a deal on the price of a particular species.

The panel must choose one price or the other, with its final decision “binding” on both sides. However, most prices set by the panel to date this year have not resulted in fisheries, as is the case with northern shrimp, sea cucumber, east coast capelin, and likely squid.

In the case of snow crab, processors have attempted to pay far less than the panel price of $6.15/lb by charging owner-operators for services like transportation that in precious years were covered by the negotiated price.

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

“Government must move immediately, or a number of fisheries may not happen this year, which will be devastating to the inshore fleet and our rural communities,” Cleary said. “In the longer-term government must be open to outside buyers.”

Ryan Cleary, Executive Director
Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador Inc.
709 682 4862