Crab on menu at Commons committee, Byrne says
The House of Commons fisheries committee will study the Eastern Canadian crab industry, Liberal MP Gerry Byrne says, although not quite yet.
But Byrne says conditions imposed by Bloc Quebecois and Conservative members of the standing committee on fisheries and oceans could delay the study for several weeks.
“My gut is that the government has reconciled itself that it’s going to happen, it’s just that they will throw up roadblocks and obstacles along the way,” Byrne said outside the House of Commons last Thursday, April 22.
Industry in crisis
The Newfoundland and Labrador crab industry is in crisis, with processors and harvesters failing to agree on an acceptable price.
Boats remain tied up and the entire 2010 crab fishery is in jeopardy.
Byrne, the MP for Humber-St. BarbeBaie Verte, wants the Commons committee to look towards the Maritimes to see if lessons can be learned there.
“ There’s never been a market shutdown that I am aware of in the Maritime crab industry,” Byrne said.
“ We need to study the Maritime system to find out what it is they are doing that actually apparently allows higher prices and an orderly conduct of the sale of crab. It can’t be lost on anyone that’s an interesting point.”
Byrne noted that the Maritimes does not have sole-source buyers and sellers, as is the case in Newfoundland.
Process not working
A provincial government panel sets a price for crab. But the process has not worked to kick-start the industry this year.
Byrne cautioned that he is not advocating the province adopt a change in system.
But he said the Maritime experience should be studied, as there are no disruptions there “ like the chaos that we consistently see in the Newfoundland and Labrador region.”
Byrne said the Commons committee plans to focus on long-term solutions.
Possible witnesses include the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union (FFAW), the Association of Seafood Producers ( ASP), fishermen and independent processors, brokers and buyers and even provincial Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman.
Meanwhile, a Liberal motion Thursday afternoon for an emergency debate in the House of Commons on the Eastern Canadian shellfish industry was unsuccessful.