Facing a $100 million loss as of 2022, ASP pledges to partner with FFAW for the upcoming season

Shrimp fishermen and factory workers want to start the 2023 season on the right foot and work together instead of against each other.  (Submitted by FFAW - photo credit)

Shrimp fishermen and factory workers want to start the 2023 season on the right foot and work together instead of against each other. (Submitted by FFAW – photo credit)

Two fishing groups put aside their combative histories to work together this snow crab season.

The Fish, Food & Allied Workers union and the Association of Seafood Producers have long clashed over issues related to the fishing industry, but say they face historic challenges this season and want to avoid problems from the start.

The groups held a press conference in St. John’s on Thursday morning where they discussed plans for the 2023 season.

“Given the challenges we face this year, we have agreed that our best approach is to discuss the challenges facing the crab fishery together and seek support from both levels of government to ensure that we have a successful crab fishery in 2023,” said Paul Grant, CEO of ASP.

His comments were echoed by Greg Pretty, the newly elected President of FFAW.

“Working together to address issues such as pricing, planning and travel restrictions before fishing begins is the best way to protect fishermen harvesters and plant workers in Newfoundland and Labrador important steps towards greater transparency, this is the best option for our members at this time to to avoid a repeat of 2022.”

Terry Roberts/CBC

Terry Roberts/CBC

Grant said Newfoundland and Labrador crab processors expect to have lost at least $100 million since last season.

Odds were increased by 32 per cent heading into the 2022 season and the season started at a record $7.60 a pound.

Fish producers sounded the alarm in late May, saying the market in the United States had gone cold and they were suffering losses. Former ASP chief executive Derek Butler said most of the crab they processed was in cold storage and they had to cut back on production.

Grant said they’re still trying to figure out how much went unsold from last season, but acknowledged some estimates say 30 percent is still in storage.

He said that’s because consumer behavior has changed and people are spending less, which means fewer people are buying crabs. The hot market from the early days of the pandemic has ended.

“That money is gone now,” Grant said. “And we now have a recession in the US, or what appears to be a recession in the US, so prices are falling because demand is falling.”

“We need to be more strategic”

FFAW and ASP will begin talks Monday, with an agreement to address multiple issues affecting the industry, both monetary and non-monetary.

Pretty said one goal is to develop a pricing formula and only rely on the pricing body “in all its glory” when talks fail.

Pretty said the union had consulted its Coastal Council on the matter and was “confident that this is the best solution at this time for both harvest workers and factory workers and the companies”.

While the two sides have often verbally abused and barbed at each other in the past, they hope to forge a relationship that is less hostile and more beneficial to all.

“For God’s sake, this isn’t a NASCAR situation where the flag falls and we throw everything on the wharf,” Pretty said. “We need to be more strategic in the world’s largest crab fishery. We need cooperation on this and I hope we get it. It is so important.”

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