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Bay of Islands fishermen supports opening market to outside buyers

Local fishermen want the opportunity to sell their catch to outside the buyers.
Local fishermen want the opportunity to sell their catch to outside the buyers. - Star file photo

A Bay of Islands fisherman believes a little competition among buyers can be a win for harvesters in this province.

In a news release issued earlier this week FISH-NL president Ryan Cleary

questioned whether the province supports inshore harvesters being paid top dollar for their fish.

“Local processors and buyers have been screaming bloody murder because Royal Greenland is paying harvesters more for their product — forcing them to increase their prices,” says Cleary. “That tells us the minimum negotiated price is too low, and reinforces our stand that the province should open the door to outside buyers.”

Rick Crane is a member of the FFAW-Unifor (Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union) — because there is no choice not to be — and a supporter of FISH-NL.

He said he sees both sides of the issue.

Crane sells his own catch to Allen’s Fishery, but also buys product from other harvesters that he takes to the Mainland to sell.

It’s been a lucrative venture for him and for the people he buys from.

And profit margins play a role in whether or not that’s so.

Crane said it all goes by what Nova Scotia is paying, sometimes it’s a $1 more a pound and sometimes it’s only .25 cents more.

“If they’re paying a quarter more, well then there’s no room for it. Because you need that quarter to get it off the island. A $1 a pound more, well then there’s room.”

Even though he supports the competition Crane believes the best place to process Newfoundland’s fish is nowhere other than in Newfoundland.

He said what they are trying to do is get it so that outside buyers are allowed in.

“If you’ve got 20 people competing for that fish and if they’re making a 15 per cent profit, well maybe fishermen will get seven of that 15.

“Either which way Newfoundland fishermen can win here.”

He said it could prompt Newfoundland buyers to give more money and it could get the FFAW trying to fight for more money from the Newfoundland or outside buyers.

The Seafood Processors of Newfoundland and Labrador has indicated in a letter, sent to Fisheries and Land Resources Minister and all members of the House of Assembly, that it intends to file a complaint with the federal Competition Bureau over Royal Greenland’s operations in the province. Royal Greenland purchased Quin-Sea Fisheries, one of the province’s largest seafood processors, in March 2016.

Cleary questions whether that complaint is a smokescreen to cover the fact local processors are underpaying fishermen.

The association’s executive director Francis Littlejohn declined to comment on the matter.


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