Crab fishers in Newfoundland and Labrador will get more money for their catch, following a decision by the standing fish price-setting panel on May 14.
Earlier this month, the panel had set the price for crab at $2.90 per pound.
On Thursday the panel, following a request by the Fish Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) for a review of the price, set the price at $3.50.
The Association of Seafood Processors (ASP), in its presentation to the panel this week, contended there had been no change in market conditions and the price should remain at $2.90.
This time, however, the panel ruled in favour of the FFAW.
In its report following this week’s hearing, the panel noted, “Over the past couple of weeks market pricing has shown some resilience . . . and market price declines have stabilized for now.
“There also appears to be a market opportunity in Japan, albeit at much lower levels than in recent years.”
The panel reiterated a point made in its May 1 report, that there is still uncertainty in the market, thanks to the situation with COVID-19.
This time, though, the panel reasoned, “Considering the more recent market data and stability, and on the balance of probabilities, it is now reasonable to anticipate a market outcome that would support the final offer of the FFAW.”
Martin Sullivan, one of the owners of the NL-based fish processing company Ocean Choice International (OCI), told SaltWire he was perplexed by the panel’s ruling.
“In the whole context of the market, we have not seen any change in the market between the panel’s first decision (May 1) and this week’s decision. We have not got any more for the crab in that period of time.
“So we’re really perplexed by that decision.”
However, under the rules of engagement under the arbitration process, both parties have to live with the ruling of the price-setting panel.
That may not be the end of the story, however.
The ASP can ask the panel to review the price for crab again if market developments warrant it.
Some craft fishers headed to sea on opening day, May 11, but high winds and bad weather meant crab wasn't landed until the end of the week.
Sullivan said workers at the OCI plant in Bonavista, for example, started their first shift on Thursday, May 14.
He said production should ramp up through the next few weeks and into June, which is typically the busiest month for crab processing.
Because the season started so late, Sullivan said, “I expect we’ll be busy with crab right into July.”