St. John’s, NL (March 21, 2024) – Today, the Association of Seafood Producers (ASP), addresses the propaganda and misinformation spread initially from select harvesters, then the FFAW, regarding the fishery in this province, specifically on new processing licenses and additional processing capacity. If granted, there would be detrimental impacts on the local seafood processing sector, and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Recent behaviour defined by threats, intimidation and harassment cannot be tolerated, placing blame on producers is unfair and should not be accepted. Long-term sustainable solutions that benefit all must be adopted.

The fishery is the lifeblood of Newfoundland and Labrador.  There’s no doubt, systemic change is required to benefit everyone involved.

To create some of the necessary changes required in the industry, conversations between ASP and the FFAW commenced over six months ago to define a formula for snow crab that would ensure a top-quality product, thereby increasing the value of the fishery to the benefit of all Newfoundland and Labradorians. The formula is also meant to ensure that every harvester will receive the same value for their product regardless of when they fish in the season.

When it comes to establishing raw material prices, we need to work with industry partners to negotiate prices that the market will respond to, that are fair to harvesters, and that is financially viable for processors. But ultimately, prices are driven by the market. Both parties agreed to do everything possible to avoid a delay like we had last year, and we can’t let history overshadow the future of the fishery for the province.

While price negotiations have been part of the conversation between ASP and the FFAW, processing capacity has been at the forefront publicly. Recent actions by harvesters is an attempt to influence government decisions and result in a higher raw material price when it merely leads to stress and challenges for plant workers and local businesses.

Currently, 5,000 people are employed in fish processing facilities. These 5,000 people are in the same communities as harvesters and need this employment to support their families. While the FFAW should be looking after plant workers best interests, they have caved and joined forces with the harvester-led protest and by doing so, have threatened the livelihoods of plant workers. The views of the FFAW on this matter are not shared by existing plant workers.

Additional capacity decreases employment for plant workers. It slices the same size pie into additional pieces and the result is each worker gets less of the pie. The issuance of new processing licenses or the lifting of current caps would result in work being transferred between processing facilities and communities – it does not achieve new employment opportunities. The harvesters’ hope is that it results in a higher price for them without reference to what the export market will bear. The result is a destruction of value for the province overall.

Last year, with the condensed operating season, plants processed more than 10 million lbs of crab per week in eight of the 14 weeks of the 2023 season. One of the highest Total Allowable Catches (TAC) in the history of the Newfoundland and Labrador snow crab fishery was in 2023. As with other fisheries, the total biomass is naturally variable and cyclical; therefore, the TAC set by DFO fluctuates year-over-year.  The overall stock status remains relatively stable, but recent environmental conditions may limit the stock’s growth in the short term. Any decline in the TAC means less raw material for existing processors, and the redistribution of work across facilities makes it more difficult for plant workers to qualify for EI.

The industry is too important economically to always be in controversary and uncertainty. We need to focus on sustainable prices for all parties involved and building and maintaining world markets. We need a long-term solution that protects and supports the existing workers, communities and companies that have invested in and developed this industry to the benefit of the province.

We need to think about the future of the fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador, and what repercussions would result from the potential of outside buyers, new licenses, and additional processing capacity.  The impacts would be felt for years to come.

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Published On: March 21, 2024 / Categories: 2024, Press /