A shrimping standoff


The shrimp season officially opened off the Oregon coast on April 1, but local shrimp boats are still sitting idle at the docks because of a failure of the shrimpers and processing plants to come to terms on price.

It’s not an unusual situation for local fisheries to become stalled over the price paid for the catch, but the reality is that it’s tough for all concerned — local fishermen, workers at fish plants that are sitting idle and owners of the fish plants themselves. Nobody makes money while the boats remain at the docks.

To make matters worse, boats from out of the area — more than a dozen vessels from Washington and the Columbia River — have been working the fishing grounds off the central coast that would normally be where the local boats would be dragging their nets. Newport shrimper Ted Gibson, a key fisherman’s representative in the price talks with the processers, guesses that as much as $10 million in product is leaving the area on these boats. That’s a lot of money being lost for the economies of the coastal communities.

We understand the frustration from the shrimpers. The latest offer from the processors is 66 cents a pound, whereas the shrimp boats were getting 72 cents a pound for the same product a year ago. In fact, the frustration has grown to the point where a group of trawlers is considering contacting state officials about the possibility of the state getting involved in the negotiating process to ensure a price settlement.

While this could be a way to break the current impasse, we question whether bringing government authorities into the mix is really in the best interest of both sides over the long term. On more than one occasion, we have observed government involvement produce what we believe were negative, not positive, results. It seems like opening that door in this instance would be heading down a slippery slope.

Plain and simple, this is a business negotiation — both sides have a clear interest and desire to gain the greatest return for their part in bringing this product to market. And until a compromise can be reached, everybody loses. That’s not very encouraging for those who aren’t making any money while the bills continue to pile up, but in business, the reality is that it’s all about the bottom line.

We certainly hope the parties can reach an agreement soon and that boats can get out on the water, but again, we just don’t believe that relying on a government agency to resolve this problem is the right way to go.

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