There was a sense of positivity of some recovery in the fishery of Rural Newfoundland & Labrador in 2011 as the announcement of crab prices were to start at $2.35 with no dispute among parties, when last season the processors were disputing the $1.35 per pound price set by the pricing panel. A Federal memo of a cut of 40 percent in the inshore shrimp fishery is unacceptable. Provincial Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman has stated the cuts to the quota should be much less (~10-15%). Some good news in this story is that the prices are up significantly for shrimp and fishers are out on the water working hard to earn a living.
The Price Setting Panel announced the lobster price would be $4.26 per pound for the week of April 17 and $4.23 per pound for the week of April 23,2011. This created a dispute among processors, claiming they could not afford to purchase at this rate.
The buyers in this situation have the upper hand, as the lobster season is quite short. The buyers continued to stall purchasing. The Fisheries Union placed pressure on Government to allow outside buyers. Fishermen should get the highest possible price for the commodity of lobster. We certainly do not have a free market as it stands today and our lobster fishers continue to pay the price. Minister Jackman noted that opening up the province to free market could not happen overnight, that plant workers may be impacted and what that could mean for other fish species – if such a precendent is set. I am unsure how much employment is created in this province due to processing of lobster, but would like to find out. It appears primarily there is the middleman or lobster buyer that gets a cut to sell from the wharf or ship to market.
It is in the interest of the buyers to ensure they reap maximum profits for themselves and their shareholders. It has been the practise of for-profit enterprises since the beginning of time. However, they have an unfair advantage over small fishing enterprises.
The Price Setting Panel set a fair price at $4.26. However, without Government intervening to allow outside buyers the bargaining power of the fishermen and their Union was weak. The fishermen went to the waters on opening day without having any buyer. This shows their dedication to their profession. However, lobster can only last so long crated on the water and fisherman can only absorb operating costs and no income for only so long. I can only imagine that this would be the case for many people, that they could only live and provide for their families for a short-term without getting further in debt. The parties agreed upon a price of $3.65 per pound with a review each week that could see increases based on market conditions.
I am outraged that fishermen are only receiving $3.65 per pound for this gourmet product. Economic conditions are much more encouraging than in 2008 when the price bottomed at $3.00-$3.25 per pound. Operating costs are increasing and fishers are unable to earn a living wage when they are being royally ripped off for their product by a whopping $0.60 per pound from the start. CBC.ca reported that 6 million pounds of lobster is caught in our beautiful province, which means $3.6 million dollars (6 million pounds *$0.60/pound) is being removed from the fishers, which would be of great benefit to the families of fishers and help sustain rural economies.
Naugle said Wednesday he was selling the first lobsters of the season at a price of $5.99 per pound, for lobsters between one and 1.4 pounds. Lobsters between 1.45 and 3.25 pounds were being sold for $6.49 per pound. (Full story here)
Prices paid to the lobster harvester in Newfoundland & Labrador are being kept artificially too low, in my opinion. The FFAW has a chart listing price for Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI from January-April, which show a price between $4-5.00 per pound (Full Details Click Here).
Action must be taken to ensure an environment is created to give the fishermen more bargaining power to obtain the fair price for their product. This may require greater attention from the Fisheries Union to focus on the small boat fisher, the Provincial Government to review its own Fisheries Act, dialogue with the Federal Department of Fisheries and a change in business operations or concessions for lobster buyers in the province. Change is needed in how we operate our Provincial fishery.
Why is our system set up that in the end the buyer sets the price, despite parties agreeing to a Price Setting Panel? The fishermen have the product and they should determine the price – if the buyers are unwilling then they should be able to look elsewhere. This is simple business. I would be happy to buy lobster from the fishers for $4.26 or more per pound.
Live Rural NL –
Christopher C. Mitchelmore
- Change needed in how we run the fishery in Canada… (liveruralnl.com)
- N.L. fishermen, buyers agree on lobster prices (ctv.ca)
- P.E.I. lobster fishermen wait for price set (cbc.ca)
- Lobster deal reached (cbc.ca)