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FISH-NL president Ryan Cleary
The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) is taking exception to this year’s price for cod recently negotiated by the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW-Unifor) union.
The high price of Grade A cod this year is 83 cents a pound – up five cents from last year – while the low mark for Grade C cod remains the same at 20 cents per pound.
In a news release from FISH-NL Wednesday, Ryan Cleary, the group’s president, called the price an “insult” to the province’s inshore harvesters and referred to it as “scandalous.”
FISH-NL is also renewing its call for outside buyers to be allowed in the province, the release stated.
“The FFAW expects cod will save harvesters from shellfish declines, but then the union agrees to a price that will starve our fish harvesters as fast as DFO mismanagement,” Cleary said.
The release stated harvesters expect to be paid an average price of 60 cents a pound for cod this year, roughly the same as they received in 2016.
The 2017 price was agreed to on Monday by the FFAW-Unifor and Icewater Seafoods of Arnold’s Cove, and then signed off on Tuesday by the province’s Standing Fish-Price Setting Panel, the release stated.
“The low price of cod is yet another prime example of the conflict of interest that exists in the FFAW representing unionized plant workers at Icewater Seafoods and inshore harvesters. It’s impossible to get a good price,” Cleary said.
The release also pointed out the small increase in the price of cod comes as groundfish licence holders were recently hit with an increase in dockside monitoring fees, which are controlled by the FFAW through its company, the Fish Harvesters’ Resource Centre (FRC).
The Fish-Price Setting Panel’s decision outlines how the FRC will continue to be the “exclusive” dockside monitoring company for the fishery. The panel also dictates that fish should be graded at the plant.
FISH-NL, however, believes harvesters would get more money if fish was graded at the wharf.
According to the news release, processors pay the FFAW one-cent per pound for union graders to sample fish at the plants, which adds up to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
FISH-NL called on the province to lift all restrictions and allow out-of-province buyers into the provincial marketplace for all species in December.
“An open and free market in the fishing industry would, at best, result in increased competition and more money in the pockets of fish harvesters. At worst, it would keep local buyers honest,” Cleary said.
“With the decline of crab and shrimp and the growing reliance on resurging groundfish, it’s critical that harvesters be paid the highest possible price for their catch.”