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Alaska shuts down crab fisheries due to stock collapse; all eyes on markets/climate change

Devastating news out of Alaska this week with the U.S. state’s decision to shut down all the snow crab, red king crab, and blue king crab 2022/23 seasons, with stocks in desperate shape due to warming waters, predators, and other factors that scientists are still trying to explain.

Newfoundland and Labrador's snow crab fishery is Canada's largest.



The 2021 news was bad enough when Alaska's snow crab quota was cut by 88% to 5.6 million/lbs — the lowest in 40 years — but this week's announcement is expected to cause financial ruin.


Newfoundland and Labrador knows all about stock collapses, having suffered through/still suffering through our share, and Alaskan fishermen have our deepest sympathies.


WILL ALASKAN CRAB COLLAPSE IMPACT MARKETS?

The Canadian snow crab industry looked for higher prices this year as the result of America's decision to ban the import of Russian seafood, and the simultaneous cut to the Alaskan quota.


However, market prices still took a tumble as the result of a drop in U.S. consumer demand tied to the state of the economy/worldwide inflation, although there were signs in last month of a turn around.



Seafood experts say the cancellation of the Alaskan crab fisheries will translate into limited supply and higher prices, with reports of growing strength in the U.S. market for crab.


HEALTHY RESOURCE CRITICAL

A healthy and prosperous snow crab fishery — one that will draw young people in, and drive the rural economy — isn't possible without a healthy resource.


Snow crab landings in this province peaked in 1999 at 69,131 tonnes, but declined year over year since until a 29% increase in quota in 2021, followed by another 32% increase in quota this year.



The province's No. 1 fishery by a mile this year was snow crab, with a landed value of $759 million — a 22% increase over 2021, and more than all other individual species combined.


Just to put that in perspective, the No. 2 fishery was northern shrimp, with a landed value of $108 million, followed by lobster at $101 million, and turbot at $48 million.


Our inshore fleet must be extremely careful not rely too heavily on one particular stock in the event of a decline/collapse.


But that's old news.


Question is whether we learned the lesson.


Ryan Cleary,

Executive Director, SEA-NL

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is a professional, non-profit organization serving as the distinct voice for licensed, independent owner-operator inshore fish harvesters. You can read more about SEA-NL, and join us here.

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