The 2018 lobster negotiations conducted in St. John’s this week were the most significant in years. At stake was the economic future of the lobster fishery, as the Seafood Processors of NL sought to reduce payments to harvesters by up to $6 million per year.
“Processors want to remove the current formula because they claim it’s not working for them anymore. The last few years, harvesters have finally been getting a fairer price for our product but the companies want to scale that back to get more for themselves,” said inshore council member and harvester from Garnish, Alfred Fitzpatrick.
At negotiations, SPONL proposed moving the current price formula to one based exclusively on the sales information of processors, which would remove lobster pricing from any external market factors, such as the booming Chinese market or the new opportunities presented under CETA. As FFAW has explained many times in the past to SPONL, there will be no consideration of change in the price formula without a thorough, transparent, verifiable multi-year examination of the sales information of lobster buyers in the province.
SPONL was not interested in a dialogue or negotiations; the group entered negotiations with just one position and would not consider an alternative. “They want to remove the Urner Barry formula and they had no interest in even reviewing our proposal. They want to roll back the clock on harvesters getting fair market prices for our lobster,” said inshore council member and harvester from the southwest coast, Kevin Hardy.
FFAW tried to engage SPONL on joint marketing efforts to allow for a collaborative approach to maximize value in the lobster fishery. SPONL would not listen. Their position was agree to our formula first, then we will consider marketing.
The Standing Fish Price Setting Panel will hold its lobster hearing tomorrow, April 13th. As with crab, the hearing is final offer selection, meaning that the Panel has to select either the FFAW’s proposal, or SPONL’s.
FFAW is proposing to maintain the same price schedule as last year, which produced good prices. The current price system functions and should remain in place until a clear and better alternative is established. The SPONL proposal falls far from that standard.
Thank you to the lobster negotiating team, which navigated a stressful and high-stakes environment this week. FFAW will immediately inform all lobster harvesters of the decision of the Panel as soon as it is released. We anticipate a decision by next Wednesday.
The lobster price negotiating committee consists of harvesters Alfred Fitzpatrick, Kevin Hardy, Denise Hillier, Jeff Roberts, Wade Savoury, Loomis Way, and FFAW staff.