The Association of Seafood Producers (ASP) that represents sea cucumber producers in the province upholds the 2021 schedule, including grading, for the sea cucumber fishery this year.
“Sea cucumber is very unique, with extensive water content, and we can not afford to buy water at $0.70 per pound. It is just not reasonable,” said Derek Butler, Executive Director, ASP. “We still have inventory from last year. The market has been a challenge and overall, given the market decline, the price to harvesters would have been down, but instead, we increased our initial price of $0.60 to $0.70. That increase helps mitigate against the market decline and the water deduction, and in fact, it should be lower. We had hoped harvesters would fish.”
The initial price was selected in arbitration earlier this year, and the ASP and FFAW later reached an agreement to increase it to $0.70 per pound. ASP says the Standing Fish Price Setting Panel made the right decision based on their sense of the market and the positions of the parties.
“As the Panel noted, the FFAW did not counter our proposals on grading except to say the existing grading conducted by an independent company, was sufficient. We appropriately addressed our issues in the collective bargaining process and our proposal was to include grading in the schedule which is only appropriate as this fishery matures,” said Butler.
Butler says that ASP sought concurrence from the FFAW to address the water deduction and quota weights with DFO last year, but received no response to its overtures.
“We tried to address this last year. We asked the FFAW to sign a letter with all the companies, both members and non-members of ASP, to ask DFO to address the issue, to make the appropriate adjustments to the quotas,” added Butler. “The good news is we have agreed now, just last week, to send a letter that addresses industry concerns on sea cucumber to federal fisheries Minister Jordan, from ourselves, the FFAW and most importantly, with the support of Minister Derrick Bragg, the provincial Minister of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture. We are hopeful that DFO will address our concerns, even perhaps on an interim basis for this year.”
Butler says the market remains a challenge, as evidenced by the lower raw material pricing in Nova Scotia. The price for sea cucumber in that province is $0.50 per pound with a water deduction added as well.
“There is no more to give on price at this stage. We increased it to $0.70, in the hopes harvesters would fish, and that price increase was accepted by the FFAW just a few weeks ago. We are not in a position to buy water, the market obviously has no interest in that,” added Butler. “Ultimately, we hope harvesters will fish. The Nova Scotia fishery is underway for less money, and the season continues.”