St. John’s, NL, 29 June 2022 – The provincially appointed Standing Fish Price Setting Panel, which serves to arbitrate prices in the fishery between harvesters and producers, is in for more criticism just a day after being slammed by the FFAW for a recent shrimp price decision.
Derek Butler, Executive Director of the Association of Seafood Producers (ASP), representing the majority of processors in the province, said today in a media release that the Price Panel has rejected an ASP request to reconsider sea cucumber prices.
“We are one month into the sea cucumber fishery, and over a month out from the Panel’s price decision for this species. This was a decision that rejected a grading program, in 2022 if you can believe, that said that producers must buy reject, damaged or punctured sea cucumber, and said producers must buy water. That was egregious enough,” says Butler.
But Butler says things were compounded by a decision of the Panel received late Tuesday evening which rejected a request to reconsider its May price decision.
“On a market that is evidently lower, Producers sought a re-engagement with the FFAW and Price Panel to adjust prices to capture that reality. We met with the FFAW and harvesters last week, and basically the message was ‘if you have grounds for a reconsideration, proceed,’” says Butler.
“So we filed that request, we had market responses from buyers overseas that rejected the pricing we offered based on the Panel’s initial decision, and the Panel did not even invite the parties to meet, did not even grant us the courtesy of time to discuss,” says Butler.
Butler says the reconsideration provision in the Panel process has been exercised over 20 times since 2008, but the Panel has rarely rejected a request outright. He says that has only happened once or twice without some provision for a meeting or discussion, and those exceptions like, in one instance, the FFAW seeking a second reconsideration which is not provided for.
“The Panel has its prerogative to not vary its decision, that is clear,” says Butler. “What is unique here, and it has rarely happened, is that the Panel did not even say, ‘well, come in and make the case. We can then decide to vary our initial decision or not.’ The process has always been for the parties to make an initial case in a letter to the Panel, and then to have access to both a meeting between the parties and a hearing.”
Butler says to be shut out without any consideration is a disturbing development in the Panel process.
“These are our businesses, there is a lot on the line here. The courtesy of some additional consideration is the past practice, and frankly it is disappointing that that was not done here.”