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Fishermen accept Canfisco offer
By Quinn Bender
Salmon fishermen have untied their boats and returned to their fishing grounds after accepting Canfisco’s offer for 28-cents per pound of pink salmon Saturday, according to the United Fishermen and Allied Workers’ Union. The day prior fishermen rejected an offer for 27-cents per pound with faint hope of further negotiations, causing sharp divisions on whether to turn around and accept the offer.
“It sounds like were squabbling over pennies, but when you’re dealing with thousands of pounds of salmon, it means a lot,” a fisherman said.
The fishermen were originally demanding 32-cents per pound for their Prince Rupert deliveries.
Captains and crews on all 36 Canfisco vessels tied up their boats and walked away from their jobs Wednesday afternoon, giving the company 48 hours to reinstate prices they say were arbitrarily dropped over night. When the deadline expired with the fishermen rejecting what was believed the final offer, they faced the prospect of walking away from from one of the most abundant seasons on record.
The fishermen’s spokesperson, Chris Cook, claimed the company violated a 2011 agreement to hold the price of pink salmon at 32-cents per pound. When Canfisco early in the week cut their price to 25-cents per pound approximately 200 fishermen and skippers rallied outside the Prince Rupert processing facility for an informal, non-union vote on the 48-hour protest.
Cook said Canfisco lowered the price arbitrarily because the fisherman have no leverage since the company had absorbed its major competitors, and owns 90 per cent of the fishing vessels.
“We have no bargaining power,” Cook said. “We used to have a minimum price that they couldn’t go lower. But we don’t have that now. They won’t even sit at the table. The same fish we’re getting for [25-cents] a pound you’re paying two or three dollars a pound at Safeway.”
Canfisco representative Rob Morely told the Northern View it’s precisely that, plus massive estimates of 56-million salmon returning to their Alaskan competitors, which will likely push market prices down at least 15 per cent, making the price cut to fishermen necessary. He added the 2011 agreement was for that year alone.
“We have already caught more pink salmon this year than we planned on catching for the entire season, north and south combined, including what’s expected from the Fraser [river],” Morely said.
Canfisco added approximately 200 workers to its plant to handle the volume. Morley said if the fishermen had walked away they would leave behind one of their most successful seasons, even at the reduced price.