A few weeks before the Atlantic crab snow season, market conditions seem to be conducive to the Canadian product, but when prices reach a historically high level in 2021, will there be consumers?
The opening date of the season has not yet been determined due to the large amount of ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Last year she took off on April 3.
However, last week the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Joyce Murray announced an increase in the total allowable catch in the entire Gulf by about 34%, or 32,519 tons against 24,261 tons in 2021.
In Zone 12, a region visited by most Akkadian crabs and covering most of the South Bay, the quota is 28,065 tons.
This significant increase in the quota is not the only factor that could benefit the Akkadian fleet, explains Gilles Therio, president of the New Brunswick Crab Processors Association.
First, the United States recently banned seafood imports from Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
“It’s about 30% of the market,” says Mr Therio.
The second factor mentioned last fall was that the Alaska government lowered its quota by 88% to protect snow crab stocks, which appear to be vulnerable to warming in the Bering Sea. Thanks to fishing in Alaska, the United States, along with Canada and Russia, is a major player in the industry.
“Given all this, we can assume that the demand for Canadian crab will be quite high. At first glance, this is very good news, but the price has become very high, and for several months now we have been seeing signs that consumers have started to stop buying it. The price is too high, especially in the retail market. “
With more time at home and most restaurants closed, American consumers have shown a strong appetite for seafood, a snow crab priced at about $ 20 a pound.
“They could afford to pay for it, but the US government’s contribution is over. We still do not know where to compare us with last year. The message we receive from customers is that they can no longer afford to charge the same price that consumers paid at the end of 2021. “
Arrival of right whales
For the past few years, crabbers, with the help of the federal government, have worked hard to start the season as soon as possible. Last year, on April 3, crabs sailed from the Acad.
This year, due to the scale of the ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, we may have to wait until mid-April.
The goal is to allow them to catch much of their quota before the endangered whales arrive later in the spring. On the other hand, in factories it risks overloading workers.
“This worries us a little, because fishermen will want to catch as many crabs as possible before the whales arrive, especially if the quota increases.”
Unlike lobsters, which can be kept in tanks pending processing, crab must be cooked immediately.
“On the other hand, we are limited in what we can change in a day. Crabs do not survive in aquariums like lobsters. If a factory has a processing capacity of 150,000 books a day and we get 200,000, what do we do? If we don’t prepare it, we can lose it, so these situations need to be managed.
Despite everything, the factories are trying to work together to limit losses, explains Gilles Therio.
“We have faced such a challenge in the past. We try to exchange products between factories. If I have too much and another factory, for whatever reason, has less, we can make a division. “