Nfld. & Labrador

Many lobster buyers aren't even needed, McCurdy says

FFAW leader Earle McCurdy says many buyers who have brought the lobster fishery to a standstill shouldn't even be in the industry.
Lobster pots have been out of the water because of an ongoing dispute about prices.

The head of Newfoundland and Labrador's key fisheries union says many of the buyers who have brought this year's lobster fishery to a standstill should not even be in the industry.

"Quite frankly, we don't need them," Fish, Food and Allied Workers union president Earle McCurdy told CBC News, as the lobster season opened with no resolution in sight to a dispute that is keeping pots out of the water.

Earle McCurdy: '[Lobster is] basically put on a truck and shipped out, and they're not the only ones who can drive trucks.' (CBC)

The Seafood Processors of Newfoundland and Labrador to refusing to honour prices set three weeks ago by a government-appointed panel that sided with a FFAW proposal on pricing.

McCurdy said many of the members of the Seafood Processors are not even processors, but rather "just middlemen" who buy catches and then 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."

The FFAW was poised to meet Sunday afternoon with members in Marystown, Harbour Breton and Stephenville to discuss strategy for ending the dispute, the second time in as many years that the Seafood Processors refused to accept the price-setting panel's order.

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.

McCurdy said the union has plans for a longer-term strategy, but is also going to discuss with its members some "short-term steps to break the logjam here and get lobster moving" back into the marketplace.

"We're not going to sit back and just let the lobster buyers' association dictate how that fishery is going to unfold," she said. "Their idea of a lobster industry is cheap raw material, and they then simply flip it over to somebody in the Maritime provinces."

The pricing panel set a base price of $3.25 per pound, which the Seafood Processors of Newfoundland and Labrador accepts. The organization, though, does not accept a formula that can escalate prices as the season progresses.

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.