The frus­tra­tions of the fish­ery

The Compass - - OPINION - — Terry Roberts

If you fol­low de­vel­op­ments in this prov­ince’s fish­ing in­dus­try, chances are you’ve shook your heads at times at the chaos that of­ten over­takes the crab har­vest each spring.

The 2013 fish­ery is no dif­fer­ent. Af­ter both sides — the Fish, Food and Al­lied Work­ers (FFAW) and the As­so­ci­a­tion of Seafood Pro­duc­ers (AS) — failed to reach a ne­go­ti­ated price for a pound of crab this spring, they both went to The Stand­ing Fish Price Set­ting Panel.

The har­vesters, rep­re­sented by the FFAW, were de­mand­ing $2 per pound, while the pro­ces­sors, rep­re­sented by the ASP, of­fered a min­i­mum price of $1.83.

Un­der the Fish­ing In­dus­try Col­lec­tive Bar­gain­ing Act, the panel is obliged to se­lect one of the two sub­mis­sions put to it by both par­ties. Last year, for in­stance, the panel ac­cepted the of­fer put forth by the FFAW.

But on April 2, the panel an­nounced it had ac­cepted the of­fer put for­ward by the pro­ces­sors, and that the min­i­mum price would be $1.83.

The price was a re­duc­tion to what har­vesters had been ac­cus­tomed, fol­low­ing ban­ner years in both 2011 and 2012.

In its writ­ten de­ci­sion, the three-mem­ber panel stated, among other things, that, “One can­not con­clude on the ba­sis of the in­for­ma­tion that prices to har­vesters should in­crease (over what was paid in 2012). On the bal­ance of prob­a­bil­i­ties it is more likely that the mar­ket will be no bet­ter or per­haps less re­ward­ing in 2013”

It fur­ther stated: “At this time, it seems that the trend points to­wards de­cline …”

That should have been the end of it, right? Both par­ties ac­cepted the rul­ing and the fish­ery com­menced, right? Wrong.

For nearly three weeks, har­vesters en­gaged in a vol­un­teer tie-up, say­ing the price was too low, and that pro­ces­sors had raised ex­pec­ta­tions through­out the win­ter by of­fer­ing con­fi­dent as­sess­ments of this year’s har­vest. Emo­tions ran high, and cli­maxed with a trou­bling in­ci­dent at a pro­cess­ing plant in Hick­man’s Har­bour in which some 30,000 pounds of crab was tossed into the har­bour. The crab was pur­chased from a fish­er­man on the west coast who had de­fied the tie-up.

Faced with the prospect of los­ing an en­tire sea­son, and the shock to the prov­ince’s econ­omy it would bring, pro­ces­sors fi­nally soft­ened their po­si­tion and agreed to pay $2 for all sales up to and in­clud­ing Sun­day, May 4.

But the prob­lems didn’t end there. Sev­eral hun­dred fish­ing ves­sels left ports through­out the prov­ince at about the same time late last month, re­turn­ing with mil­lions of pounds of crus­taceans within a short pe­riod of time. The re­sult? An over­sup­ply of raw ma­te­rial that forced pro­ces­sors to call for a slow­down.

Op­ti­mism and en­thu­si­asm was once again re­placed by tem­po­rary tie-ups and delays.

On a pos­i­tive note, both sides have agreed to set up a com­mit­tee this fall to de­velop op­tions for crab pric­ing struc­tures aimed at avoid­ing price dis­putes in the fu­ture.

Let’s hope it works bet­ter than the cur­rent for­mula. If there’s a way to take some of the un­cer­tainty and tur­moil out of the fish­ery, it must be found. The thou­sands of peo­ple who make a liv­ing from the in­dus­try de­serve noth­ing less.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.