Thursday, May 3, 2012


My comments on Open-Line, blog posts and a letter to the editor in support of the FFAW's creation of a lobster co-op in response to the buyers cartel's intransigent, greedy price fixing, has gotten me in some got water with a few buyers.

Not because I am wrong, but because they feel they have a right to RIP-OFF fishermen!

There are nearly 3,000 licensed lobster fishers (who are independent small businessmen) in Newfoundland and Labrador. Lobsters are harvested close to shore in small boats within restricted lobster fishing areas. The sustainability of this fishery is not only important to lobster fish harvesters, but also to the viability of rural Newfoundland.

Yesterday the union and a few buyers started paying fishermen $4.44 a pound for lobsters. The seafood processors association claimed that a government-appointed seafood pricing panel formula  would mean a second straight year of losses for companies that buy lobster from fishermen. They balked at a base rate of $3.25 a pound and the formula that adjusts prices after that.

I am pro business, pro-private sector creating opportunities, employing people and generating tax revenue. However, I think that there is an unacceptable level of greed when it comes to the returns that lobster collectors/buyers in this province feel entitled to making. I am not knocking anyone's entrepreneurial spirit, I am just questioning the potential for loan sharking and anti-competitive behavior.

Some of these buyers pretty much own licenses because they have extended so much credit to the harvester that these fishermen are really indentured labour. These people have very little independence, or say. They are under the heels of what many might consider  loan sharks!

This is why I have always thought it made sense for fishermen to buy their own lobsters, pound them, market them and transport them to markets ensuring the best possible price. The big bonus is a shift from being beholden to local buyers for fishing gear, bait, gas, boats and even lobster pots.

The fact that Nova Scotia Lobster fishers will not fish for less that $5.50, and that the fair price here is $4.44 a pound, tells me that harvesters in this province have been getting a raw deal.

Something had to give, perhaps the exporters of lobsters might want to reconsider their arrangement with the collectors. What is a fair return for the investment that these "middlemen" who collect lobsters and do the paperwork associated with workers compensation and EI.

This is a great test. An opportunity for fishers to stand united. One thing is certain, the FFAW's actions have brought much needed competition to the industry, $4.44 is a big difference from the $3.25 that the buyers refused to pay at the start of the year.

I certainly would have no hesitation discussing the issue with the buyers that are mad at me but lets face it this is a self-induced problem. The problem is facing you, just look in the mirror and stop blaming the harvesters who deserve a better return.

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