Sunday, April 18, 2021

Why are lobster prices lower in Newfoundland?

The answer should boil the blood of every NL lobster harvester: the answer isn’t known, because fish processors/buyers won’t say. 

That’s right, the province’s Fish Price Setting Panel said this past week that “overall prices to harvesters in other jurisdictions were somewhat higher than in Newfoundland,” but in the absence of information from processors, who the hell knows.

Some of the price differential has to do with transportations costs. Newfoundland processors are also the only buyers in Atlantic Canada to pay workers comp, and EI benefits on top of wharf prices. 

But all those costs don’t come close to the as much as $3-$5 a pound price difference between what's paid to NL harvesters, and mainland harvesters. 

At the same time, Newfoundland lobster are the best on the market — two-clawed, with hard shells and high meat content.

Another example of NL fishermen being under the thumb of the merchant (like snow crab), and another example (like snow crab) of how the Fish Price Setting Panel doesn't work ...  

Bay of Islands fisherman Reg MacDonald. CBC photo

DFO data shows that average annual landed lobster prices to fish harvesters declined to $4.46/lb. in 2020, down from $6.03 in 2019, and a record high of $6.95 in 2017. 

There is a more positive outlook for 2021.

This year’s fishery had begun/will begin in the coming days around Newfoundland and Labrador, but the price won’t be known until on or near April 28th, after lobster hits the market, and the pricing formula kicks in. 

That formula was tinkered with a bit this year in favour of the FFAW, as decided recently by the Fish Price Setting Panel.

Word on the wharf today is that lobster are selling in Nova Scotia for $12 a pound, with harvesters here in NL expecting to be paid a lot less, as is too often the case.

The 2021 price of snow crab is a prime example, with harvesters here paid $5.73 a pound vs $7:50+ a pound in NS.

Lobster boats in Little Port, Bay of Islands. 

Newfoundland lobster landings have shown dramatic growth in recent years — landings peaked in 2020 at 4,915 tonnes (10.8 million pounds), which is more than double the landings in 2014 (up 230%). 

By 2019, landed value reached $62 million, an increase of 330% over 2014. However, in 2020 landed value declined to $48.2 million because of depressed prices resulting from the emerging Covid-19 pandemic. 

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