Weak demand for snow crab in the US market has significantly reduced the price offered to fishermen for the resource, a situation that creates uncertainty for processors in New Brunswick.
When the crab fishery opened in mid-April, all indications were that the industry would have a very good season.
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the United States banned the import of seafood from Russia. Last year, Alaska also cut its snow crab quota by 88%. Thus, the Canadian crab was the only one that could satisfy America’s high demand for this crustacean.
The prices offered to fishermen at the beginning of the season – about $8.50 per pound – were set based on this shortage and the high demand for snow crab during the pandemic.
According to the New Brunswick Crab Processors Association (NBCTA), there doesn’t seem to be an American appetite for crab.
“This has been an extremely difficult year for the snow crab industry,” said Gilles Theriault, president of the CNBTA.
According to Mr Theriault, the difficulties are due to the fact that crab processors cannot sell their stocks south of the border.
“Unlike previous years when the crab was sold processed, this year the market is very slow to buy it,” he said. They’re buying small amounts here and there, but that’s a concern because a lot of factories are left with inventory, and the price at which they can be sold when they can is down a lot from last year.”
Weak demand for snow crab in the US can be partly explained by the fact that American buyers were buying crab from Russia even before the conflict in Ukraine began.
“At the beginning of the season, the price for fishermen was high because we expected high demand. We buy, but we keep the crab in warehouses, because the American market is not ready. This puts a lot of pressure on processors,” says Mr Thero.
Until demand increases, processors have agreed to sell the harvesters at $6 per pound. The amount will then be adjusted when business resumes.
The Acadian Regional Federation of Professional Fishermen (FRAPP) says it is not overly concerned about the situation.
“Products are arriving more slowly than in previous years,” confirms Jean Lantein. Americans eat the bulk of snow crab during the holiday season. At the moment there is no great fear that our catch will not be sold.
In particular, FRAPP says it is wondering whether its members will be able to catch the full quota of 32,519 tonnes allowed this year in the southern Gulf, especially given the growing presence of right whales in the region. The costs associated with fishing are also a concern.
“The cost of fuel and bait has doubled since last year, this worries our guys. They started in April, but with fuel prices rising by $0.30 in the last 14 days, the impact is growing. We still have some fishing time, we’ll see how it goes,” says Mr Lantain.
“It’s not easy for anyone, it’s one of the hardest years we’ve known in a while, some say it’s the hardest in 25 years,” says M. Theriault for his part.