Monday, August 5, 2013

A salmon season of discontent

"Canadian Fish certainly has the monopoly in B.C.,"... As far as fishing companies go, "it's the price setter." And now "fishermen are saying that the price of fish is far less than they can make a living off of and they are not willing to risk their lives to go out and catch millions of pounds of salmon and at the end of it show next to nothing in profit,"-- UFAWU Rep Joy Thorkelson outlining for the Tyee, the mood of the North Coast Fishing Fleet  and their recent standoff with the Canadian Fishing Company as the 2013 salmon season works towards September

They may be back on the water, hauling in their nets and delivering their catch to the big Canfisco plant on George Hills Way, but if recent media accounts of the three day labour dispute are any indication, the North Coast fishing fleet is anything but happy with Rob Morley and the Canadian Fish Company.

A review of the three day work stoppage surrounding the pink sockeye fishery in the online news outlet the Tyee, provides an account of no shortage of frustration, as the local fleet faced yet one more disappointment, that in a season that has provided for challenging times for those that chase the fish stocks heading back to the Skeena and Nass.

Beyond the status of the sockeye fishery, which it seems for all intent and purposes will be shut down this summer, the price of pink salmon collapsed on the fishing fleet as July was coming to an end, as Canfisco chose to revise the original offer of 32 cents per pound prior to the rush of pinks, reconsidering that benchmark and offering 25 cents for pinks from the previous going price.

Such was the apparent bounty of the returns for pinks, that Canfisco reduced their price offering to the fleet, a move which saw the fishermen tie up their boats while they sought renewed discussions. Eventually returning to the water with a price quote of 28 cents per pound, a gain of three cents more than the original Canfisco price of three days previous.

The Tyee provided perhaps the best primer of what was happening with the North Coast fishery in the wake of the price dispute, as Canfisco's Morley provided the Canadian Fish Company perspective of it all, based on the volume of returns, the Company having already met their full season budget of pinks for both south and north.

As a side item, but of interest and importance to the discussion,  the Tyee also outlined another aspect of the fishery from the Canfisco perspective. That of the nature of fish plant operations between Canada and Alaska, with the BC plants paying shore workers approximately 18 dollars per hour, compared to 7 dollars in Alaskan plants.

As the pricing dispute carried on between Canfisco and its fishing fleet, Morley observed that the shore workers would be impacted directly should the dispute continue.

The prospect we imagine was one that the shore workers would be losing valuable hours of work if the fleet wasn't back on the water, that in a industry where it seems the available work hours get shorter and shorter for the labour pool each year.

The topic of fishermen and shore worker issues is one that we imagine will remain high on the watch list for UFAWU's Joy Thorkelson. One of the key items to watch over as Canfisco continues to highlight the business challenges of the fishery and what impacts that those challenges may have on the local work force, both on the water and in the plants.

The three day dispute is just the latest of issues of concern when it comes to a very frustrating summer for fishing aspect of the North Coast Fishing industry, you can review some of the past items below.

August 7-- Sockeye season called the worst in three decades
August 1-- Kitsumkalum Salmon (video)
August 1-- Low Skeena salmon rates lead to Kitsumkalum BBQ cancellation
August 1-- Low Sockeye Numbers in Skeena River a Concern for First Nations and Government
July 31-- Salmon Fishermen back on the job (N View e edition pg A1 & 2)
July 30-- Fishermen Canfisco Deal (video)
July 29-- Canfisco fleet back fishing
July 26-- North Coast Seiners Demonstrate in Front of Canfisco Plant
July 26-- North Coast Seiners Demonstrate in Front of Canfisco
July 26-- Morley Canfisco (video)
July 26-- Mussallem Pinks (video)
July 26-- Wet'suwet'en Return (video)
July 26-- Wet'suwet'en First Nation Host Annual Salmon Return
July 25-- Pink salmon fishery standoff in Prince Rupert
July 24-- Fishermen tie up Canfisco fleet
July 24-- Low numbers forces sockeye closure (N View e edition pg A3)
July 23-- Skeena sockeye numbers remain bleak
July 23-- NDP MP Nathan Cullen adds his voice to Skeena fishery concerns  NCR
July 17-- Conservation groups point to SE Alaska for Skeena stock woes  NCR
July 16-- Alaskans Fish BC Sockeye (video)

You can access more on the North Coast Fishery from our archives

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