Friday, June 5, 2009

Deal possible to solve N.L. shrimp impasse, minister says

Deal possible to solve N.L. shrimp impasse, minister says Fisheries Minister Tom Hedderson says he hopes processors and unionized fishermen can hammer out a deal to revive this year's shrimp season. (CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador's fisheries minister is hoping shrimp companies and fishermen can hammer out a deal, after processors shut down the industry amid rock-bottom demand for their product.

The Association of Seafood Producers says market conditions for processed shrimp have reached unprecedented poor conditions, with the rising Canadian dollar only compounding problems.

Processors, which stopped buying shrimp on Tuesday, say the poor markets hammering lobster, crab and other products are also wreaking havoc for shrimp.

Tom Hedderson, Newfoundland and Labrador's minister of fisheries and aquaculture, told CBC News he recognizes that global markets are in crisis, but that a solution can still be achieved to get the shrimp industry — which had a landed value of $186 million in 2008 — moving again.

"We're in some peril, not only with the shrimp industry, but with others, and I'm not surprised," Hedderson said.

"The market does do a fair bit of directing, but I think it's within the processors and harvesters now to come together and find a solution to this," he said. "There is a solution to this."

A meeting is scheduled for Thursday between negotiators for the processors and the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union.

"I'm very, very hopeful that when they do come together they will find that magical price that can allow us to get through to the summer, and perhaps beyond," said Hedderson, who will not be involved in the discussions.

About 3,000 people rely on the shrimp industry for work.

Hedderson said he was concerned that plant workers will likely suffer the most if an impasse drags on.