Nfld. & Labrador

Lobster fishermen setting up co-op

Fishermen are setting up a co-op to buy their lobster.

They say they'll cut out processors who traditionally bought it

Lobster in Newfoundland.

Fishermen in Newfoundland and Labrador are setting up a co-op to buy their lobster.

Companies that usually buy their catch say they cannot afford the price that's been set for this season, so they're not buying.

More than 300 lobster fishermen held meetings Sunday in Marystown, Harbour Breton and Stephenville.

They say they’re going to cut out the middleman.

 "We have to have more of that fishery returned to the primary producer. There's no real processing content there. Essentially people buy it and flip it … so the idea is to cut down on cost and get as much of the return as we can to the primary producer," said fisheries union president Earle McCurdy.

McCurdy says the group will begin shipping out lobster later this week.

The move comes after the Seafood Processors of Newfoundland and Labrador disagrees with decision on lobster prices set three weeks ago by a government-appointed panel that sided with a FFAW proposal on pricing.

The pricing panel set a base price of $3.25 per pound, which the processors accept; however, their organization does not accept a formula that can escalate prices as the season progresses.

McCurdy said many of the members of the companies are not even processors, but rather "just middlemen" who buy catches and transport them to the mainland.

"There is a role for buyers, but there's no processing to speak of in lobster," McCurdy said. "It's basically put on a truck and shipped out, and they're not the only ones who can drive trucks."

Last year, a compromise was reached in time to salvage the season, although association executive director George Joyce said his members lost money.

In 2011, the lobster industry in Newfoundland and Labrador had a landed weight of 4.37 million pounds, with a landed value of $17.3 million. Lobster is a small fraction of the annual fishery, which is dominated by shrimp and snow crab.