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2022 Year of the Snow Crab

Updated: Feb 16

That’s what 2022 is shaping up to be from a rare expected forecast of healthy stock assessments and huge market demand —combined with the collapse of a competing snow crab fishery in Alaska. The provincial powers-that-be might consider rebranding Come Home Year as Year of the Snow Crab.

Processor's Rock Small-Boat basin near The Narrows in St. John's harbour, March 2021.



The 2022 snow crab fishery here in Newfoundland and Labrador should be another record-breaker in terms of landed value.


No word on price yet obviously, but all signs point well north of last year's disappointing $7.60/lb — the price to harvesters that was locked-in in April even as the market price continued to climb for months after. (I'll come back to that.)


To Monday's good news, U.S.-based Undercurrentnews.com speculated that a reported increase in the biomass of snow crab in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence (fishery areas 12, 12E, 12F and 19) could translate into a 2022 total allowable catch (TAC) of almost 33,000 tonnes — a 35% jump over last year's 24,261 tonnes.


The biggest snow crab fishery in Atlantic Canada is off Newfoundland and Labrador (Areas 2HJ, 3KLNO, 3Ps, and 4R3Pn) with a 2021 quota of 38,186 tonnes — an overall quota increase of 29% over 2020. (Some areas, including off Labrador, suffered a 20% cut in quota.)


DFO's 2022 snow crab science isn't out yet, but last year's assessment was promising in most areas.


The below panel is from DFO's 2021 assessment.




DFO is expected to unveil its stock assessments for NL snow crab soon, followed by the quota announcement, and the commercial fishery's opening in April.


The final decision on quotas rests with the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.


Sky-high prices/huge demand can intensify pressure on stocks, with some debate in 3Ps this past fall over whether to continue with quota increases, or to ease off the harvesting pedal.


While DFO science has been generally positive, one senior manager seemed to lay her cards on the social-media table last fall when she "liked" a Facebook post that suggested that 3Ps fishermen take a snow crab cut before the fleet is once against tied up.




2021 PRICE OF SNOW CRAB


Inshore harvesters have high expectations for this year's snow crab price — and so they should.


Normally at this time of year the Alaskan snow crab fishery is in full gear, but the quota was cut by 88%a to 5.6 million/lbs from 45 million/lbs.


While the Russian snow crab fishery is also in gear most of that catch is sold to Asian markets — not North America, where most East Coast snow crab is destined.


That means there's a massive American appetite for Canadian snow crab. As Undercurrentnews reported — for the new fews months the Canadian snow crab fishery will "have the stage."


The seafood news outlet also reported the average price the U.S. paid for Canadian snow crab last year was $29.14 per kilogram — 72% more than the year before. The average price paid in December was $36.47/kg — for a year-over-year increase of 73%.


Last year, the final price of $7.60/lb paid to Newfoundland and Labrador's inshore harvesters was set in stone on April 25th — even as the market price rose for months after.


SEA-NL wrote the provincial government on Nov. 5th to request that the regulation under the Standing Fish Price-Setting Panel that restricts each party to one price reconsideration per species be lifted, and the change be made prior to the start of the 2022 season.


In a Dec. 14th response, Environment and Climate Change Minister Bernard Davis, whose department is also responsible for labour, said the matter was under review, which he expected to be concluded in the “very near future.


No word as of today.


Ryan Cleary,

SEA-NL

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