By Meaghan Philpott
FOR THE SOU’WESTER
CORNER BROOK, N.L. – Derek Hickey is glad his livelihood does not depend solely on lobster.
With the recent pricing controversy, lobsters are more hassle than they are worth, said the Benoit’s Cove man.
Hickey and his brother Willis fish for herring, caplin and mackerel later in the season, as their main income.
On Sunday, April 29, he said no one really knows what the fair price of lobster is, and that has kept him for selling his catch.
The lobster he hauled in on Thursday were still tied up in Frenchman’s Cove and waiting to be sold.
Hickey could have sold his catch to the lobster co-op, offered by the Food, Fish and Allied Workers (FFAW) union, but chose not to.
On Saturday, 300, 90-pound boxes of lobster left Port aux Basque for the Maritimes.
“Some fisherman who sold (to the co-op) Saturday had no price on the receipt (for what they will be paid),” he said.
Lobster prices fluctuate, therefore the harvesters must wait out the entire week to see what they will be paid for that week’s catch.
As the week ends on a Tuesday, prices will be announced on Wednesday, said Jason Spingle of the FFAW.
For the week of April 15-21, the minimum shore price for lobsters was $4.59 per pound. But the Newfoundland season was not open yet so those prices do not apply.
“The buyers were just basically deciding on what they wanted to pay on any given day, really,” Springle said. “The didn’t give the harvesters confidence they were getting a fair return of the market.”
However, when Wednesday comes the pricing woes may not be over.
“The union is saying we should be getting a certain price for the lobster, and the buyers are saying they can’t afford it,” Hickey said.
The market worth is based on a pricing formula that has been a practice for many years, however according to Hickey, buyers do not what to follow that formula anymore.
“Most fisherman feel ( buyers) want the formula gone,” he said. “So they can give (prices) they want to give you.”
For the past few weeks, typical buyers — such as fish plants and fish processing companies — have been refusing to buy and it is not known if they will start to buy this week.
The situation has left fishers to sell the catch themselves or through the union’s coop.
“Most people got to sell ( lobsters) to get their stamps for the winter,” he said. “Fishing is seasonal work. You need your unemployment for the winter.”