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  • Writer's picturerryancleary

Protesters may have won 'free enterprise', but government's broken fish-pricing system may still set 2024 snow crab price

As it stands right now, on Thursday of this week (March 28th) the price of snow crab to start the 2024 season will be put in the hands of government's price-setting panel, which must choose either the FFAW or ASP version of a pricing formula based on market returns. It will be one or the other — the law doesn't permit cherry picking.

Southside of St. John's harbour looking towards the Battery/Signal Hill. March 23rd.

In January, the FFAW's Greg Pretty said that should the ASP not show good faith bargaining the "next best scenario" would be legislating the formula recommended by Glenn Blackwood, who led last year's review of the pricing system.

If it were in place today (the FFAW rejected it), the Blackwood formula would spit out a price of $2.82/lb for snow crab to the inshore fleet.

Instead the panel will pick a new formula.

Last year when the panel set the crab price at $2.20 to start the season over the $3.10/lb the FFAW put forward, the panel said straight up the $2.20 wasn't the "correct price."

Let's hope they can choose the "correct formula" this year.


The FFAW's bargaining position this year has been shaken by the resignation of its chief negotiator, as well as an arbitrator's decision that the union is liable for losses (potentially millions) suffered by processors as the result of last year's six-week tie-up.

The exact amount of those losses is being decided on at the same time the crab price is being negotiated.

As I too often write: can't make it up.

That could chip away at the union's bargaining power, not to mention the fact that for two springs running the union's senior executive (Greg Petty/Jason Spingle) have conceded power to Jason Sulllivan and now John Efford Jr.

No wonder the FFAW's inshore council is in revolt, and looking for executive blood.


Heading into the start of NL's 2024 snow crab fishery, the Urner Barry seafood index reports that inventories of larger NL crab (8oz and up, and 10oz are and up) are "thinning."

(Supplies of larger crab from the Gulf are reported to be nil, with quotation of those sizes removed from the seafood index until product starts flowing into the U.S. market.)

Urner Barry reports that supplies of 5-8oz NL crab are "adequate to barely adequate."

The Urner Barry price for snow crab (5-8oz) this week is $5.45 US ($7.36 Cdn), where it’s been since January.

With inventories pretty well spent, combined with a cut to this year’s Gulf snow crab quota of 27% and decent demand from the U.S. (the main market for NL crab), prices are in position to rise. (What will actually happen is pure guesswork.)

For seafood like snow crab — the price of which is set by world markets beyond the control of little ol' NL — there will always be market highs and lows to ride out.

However, in taking the place of the free market (and this is me speaking), the legislated fish pricing system must guarantee a fair market share of at least 50% to both sides.

Ryan cleary is a former journalist, Member of Parliament, union leader, and long-time inshore fisheries advocate who’s currently helping to organize a co-operative ( for inshore enterprise owners. The opinions expressed in this blog are his own. Contact him at or call/text 709 682 4862. 

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