Negotiations surrounding the price of shrimp for Newfoundland and Labrador harvesters are leaving fishers to question whether untying their boats will be worth it this summer.
While there is a sense of optimism around catches like crab, shrimp has proven to be a different story. The price set by the Association of Seafood Producers came in at one dollar a pound Thursday, with the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union pushing for a price of $1.50.
Shrimp harvester Rendell Genge has been in the industry since 1970, and has seen up and down years fishing on the west coast of Newfoundland. This summer, he wonders if taking his boat out will be feasible.
"There's no way we can fish for a dollar," Genge told CBC Radio's The Broadcast Wednesday. "We had a group meeting [Tuesday], and 100 per cent agreed not to go fishing [unless] we do the $1.50, at least $1.50 right now."
"We'll hang in tough and see what the markets will give us in the future. If they can't afford to pay no more, we can't afford to fish for it."
A similar story is playing out for Carmanville harvester Heather Starks, chair of the shrimp committee in the area known as 3K South.
"It is a low price, and it was slightly higher last year. People found it hard to fish last year at its price, and all of our shrimp didn't come in in our area," Starks said Thursday.
"I can say at a dollar, and there's no reason to say that you will get a dollar depending on the distribution, that right now it wouldn't be viable for myself to go fishing."
Starks said other factors can also play into the decision to fish shrimp this year, as rising fuel, repair and grocery costs — paired with low shrimp prices — could leave some harvesters operating at a loss.
"There are people in our area that only have one trip of crab, and they are quite dependent on shrimp," she said. "They'll make a decision, and like I said, it's very hard to go out at that price."
Negotiations to set the summer price of shrimp will continue in June, where the price will be set by a pricing panel. Depending on the result, both Genge and Starks agree they'll have a decision to make.
"I think it would be quite hard for someone to fish for such a low price.… People will have to decide if it's viable," Starks said.