SEA-NL: Fish price-setting ‘fiasco’; minister did not refer complaint to labour board

Wednesday, July 20th, 2022

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) says the province’s failure to have reports investigated that some processors may have paid less than the “binding” snow crab price further undermines government’s fish price-setting system.

“Paying even one cent less than the binding price undermines government’s pricing system over the entire $1 billion-plus commercial fishing industry,” says Ryan Cleary, SEA-NL’s Executive Director. “Every other day there’s another example of how the fish pricing system in this province has become a fiasco.”

Provincial Fisheries Minster Derrick Bragg told at least one enterprise owner late last month the province’s labour relations board was looking into reports that some processors were paying less than the minimum $6.15/lb snow crab price.

Green’s Seafood Ltd. would only buy crab if an enterprise owner first signed an agreement to pay $2.22/lb plus tax for services such as offloading that are usually covered by the negotiated price.

The new costs are seen as a way around paying the $6.15/lb minimum price imposed by the province’s price-setting panel on May 16th.

While Bragg had indicated the labour board was looking into the complaint, the minister said this week his department is not responsible for the price-setting panel (which falls under Labour Minister Bernie Davis’ jurisdiction), and so he “left it to the FFAW and their legal team to address.”

“That’s not good enough when the price-setting panel’s credibility is already shredded,” said Cleary, who late last week called for the panel’s elimination before fisheries are lost.

Various fish prices set by the panel this year — including northern shrimp, and east coast capelin — have not resulted in fisheries. The sea cucumber fishery only recently got underway after an almost seven-week tie-up over the price that processors refused to pay, and the jury is still out on whether there will be a squid fishery.

Contact Ryan Cleary: 682 4862