Shrimp harvesters and processors continue to wait for the season to start

Katherine Hudson
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Jackson's Arm -

As shrimp harvesters and processors continue to wait for the season to go ahead and a viable price for the raw material to be reached, bad news continues to flow in creating an uneasy atmosphere for those affected.

Given the late start of the crab fishery, the three-member Standing Fish Price-Setting Panel, which is appointed by the provincial government, stated Tuesday that if the spring shrimp fishery does start up at all, it is not expecting a high volume of shrimp.

Florence Hedderson has worked at the shrimp processing plant in Jackson's Arm, an operation of Northern Shrimp Company Ltd., for 12 years. Unlike other members of the community who are working with other species to acquire employment, Hedderson is waiting solely on the shrimp plant.

She shucks shells off shrimp on the production line and said she is eager to get back to work but isn't optimistic the season will open any time soon.

"This year is no different. We had to wait last year. Never went to work until the middle of July. Every year it seems to be getting later and later," said Hedderson.

She said the main reason for the delay in the shrimp season's kick-off is waiting for harvesters and processors to decide on a viable price.

"It's stressful. You got to wait and see what's going to happen. You don't know if you got a job or not, " said Hedderson.

"We haven't heard nothing and they're just barring back and forth about the price they'll pay the fisherman. The same thing that's gone on with the crab is going on with the shrimp," she said.

About 150 employees work at the Jackson's Arm shrimp plant during peak-season. Hedderson said the community is only home to crab-fishing boats, as shrimp must be trucked in from outside ports to be processed.

The province's Standing Fish Price-Setting Panel set the price for shrimp this year at 48 cents per pound, slightly higher than last year for what processors pay harvesters. It stated as well that shrimp trucked to the plant, such as the case in Jackson's Arm, will be paid three cents less per pound.

The panel stated in its report that the 2010 shrimp season might be "the year where the economic realties of the fishing industry make it uneconomical for harvesters to engage in shrimp fishing because the raw material price they must have to sustain their fishing enterprises cannot be absorbed by the processing sector due to market and currency factors."

Mayor of Jackson's Arm Claude Jones said it's been a bad year all around for the fishing industry, which is the main industry in the community. Jones said he's attempted to make contact with owners of the plant but to no avail.

"Our problem is getting the plant open," he said.

The panel also stated the rocky financial situation in the fishery market "will likely lead to lost fishing enterprises and the closure of some processing facilities in 2010."

Jones is staying optimistic, focusing on the fact that through the community's other fish plant, White Bay Ocean Products which handles species such as crab, capelin and mackerel, harvesters have been out on the water since Monday.

"It's good for the people, good for the place, good all around," he said.

Organizations: Northern Shrimp Company, White Bay Ocean Products

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