Nfld. & Labrador

Shrimp fishery set to begin with financial loss almost guaranteed, says seafood association

Association of Seafood Producers president Derek Butler said the start of the fishery has been driven by a sense of responsibility among workers, harvesters and processors, who rely on the fishery to make a living.

Loss could be larger if boats stay at the wharf this season

The shrimp fishery brings important revenue to many across Newfoundland and Labrador but is expected to come with large financial losses this year. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

As people in the province's shrimp industry prepare to begin the season, those involved say they are prepared for a season of financial loss across the board after market challenges and disagreements on prices delayed the season.

Association of Seafood Producers president Derek Butler said the start of the fishery has been driven by a sense of responsibility among everyone that relies on the fishery to make a living.

"That sense of responsibility has led producers to decide I think, and that's my sense of things, to open their businesses," Butler told CBC Radio's The Broadcast. "And I think that's true for all different producers in the province."

Butler said those involved in the fishery had time to decide whether or not they wanted to open, and understand this season will bring almost guaranteed financial loss. The Fish, Food & Allied Workers union's original price offer was $1.18 per pound, while processors countered with 70 cents per pound.

In the end, a hearing settled on $1.08, but the ASP said that number still means losses for processors.

However, Butler said the losses could be larger if boats don't leave the wharf this season.

"A lot of people, they rely on this business," he said. "Leaving it in the water and not running your boats, not running your plants, there's a price to pay for that as well."

Butler said markets and the upcoming shrimp forecast haven't been positive either, and said things will remain difficult throughout the season.

"The challenge if you own a business is do you survive to fight another day in the hopes that the future might get brighter, or do you stop now?" he said. "Right now, that's what we face. I don't think it's going to be a good year in the business. We might go through a few rough years.

"It's been a very difficult year. There's lots of pain all around. We can't minimize that, but certainly in the seafood business it's been a difficult year, and we'll look forward to putting this one behind us."

Derek Butler, executive director of the Association of Seafood Producers, says this year has been challenging for the shrimp industry. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

In a news release issued Thursday, Butler said shrimp markets were in trouble before the COVID-19 pandemic began, with high inventories and a slow market which was made more evident by the pandemic.

He said producers will be paying attention to various aspects of the fishery to see where costs can be reduced such as landing sites and scheduling.

"We're going to have to work very closely with harvesters to ensure that we've got very careful scheduling so that we maintain the best possible quality we can in terms of getting shrimp into the wharf."

Butler said another effort to cut costs can be made in trucking, with the idea of limiting travel to ensure the highest quality and a better performance on the market.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from the Broadcast