Lobster Pricing Dispute Over in Newfoundland

May 8, 2012, 11:00 AM EST

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The FFAW/CAW and the Seafood Producers of Newfoundland and Labrador have reached an agreement on lobster prices for the remainder of the 2012 season, which brings to an end a two-week dispute in which many lobster buyers refused to buy.

The agreement continues to tie prices to market conditions, adjusted on a weekly basis.

FFAW President Earle McCurdy said the key factor from the union's perspective is that the price to harvesters will continue to be based on market conditions.

During collective bargaining this spring, the union proposed a price-to-market formula, while buyers wanted to set the price themselves. Most of those buyers refused to buy after a provincial panel ruled in favour of the FFAW.

The union filled the vacuum by organizing harvesters into a co-operative structure in partnership with the Fogo Island Co-op. The co-op has shipped five tractor trailer loads of lobster or about $1million worth.

"The buyers were convinced we would fall flat on our face with this initiative," McCurdy said in a May 4 news release. "They only got serious about settling the dispute when they realized that we meant business, and that the harvesters didn't need them to move their lobsters."

McCurdy said it was "remarkable" that a fledgling organization was able to coordinate the sale on short notice, but with the lobster season set to open on the Northern Peninsula and other areas the co-op would have been "hard pressed" to keep up with demand.

Establishing the co-op structure was crucial to getting buyers back to the table, McCurdy said.

But he added that the co-op is here to stay. With the price impasse resolved the elected board of directors will have the time, in co-operation with the union and the Fogo Island Co-op, to develop a long term plan. "Now we have time to organize the kind of infrastructure and marketing structure you need to be a major player in that industry."

McCurdy said he's confident that 2012 will end up being a "turning point in the evolution of the lobster fishery in this province."

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