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Snow crab stars align for upcoming season: likely quota increases, huge demand, scarce competition

The stars continue to align for the province's 2022 snow crab season. DFO science said Tuesday the stock is peaking in most areas in terms of health with quota increases expected, and world markets that were hungry for crab before the Alaskan stock collapse will be starved now with little taste for Russian product.

Canada's largest snow crab fishery is off Newfoundland and Labrador, where quota increases are expected this year. The 2021 total allowable catch (TAC) was 38,186 tonnes, a 29% increase from 2020, and the first real rise in more than a decade.

The province's snow crab quota is expected to increase again this year after DFO science said Tuesday the stock is healthy in most areas, including off eastern, southern, and western Newfoundland. The exception is Labrador and points north where the crab stock is in the cautious zone between healthy and critical.

DFO science also said that stock biomass improvements in recent years may be peaking.

The peak (if DFO scientists are right) will not have lasted long.

2021 — 38,186 tonnes $612 million $7.60

2020 — 29,551 tonnes $185 million $3.50

2019 — 29,579 tonnes $303 million $5.38

2018 — 28,083 tonnes $298 million $4.97

2017 —33,605 tonnes $325 million $4.39

2016 — 41,745 tonnes $274 million $3

2015 —47,099 tonnes $258 million $2.45

2014 — 49,761 tonnes $258 million $2.30

2013 — 50,634 tonnes $220 million $1.83

2012—52,462 tonnes $217 million $1.95

2011 — 52,951 tonnes $251 million $2.15

2010 — 52,229 tonnes $155 million $1.35

• 1999 — 69,000 tonnes (peak)

The ultimate decision on snow crab quotas (as with all quotas) will be up to the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, with a decision expected by March's end.

A potential quota increase for Newfoundland and Labrador snow crab would come at the same time that the Alaska's snow crab quota was cut by 88%, and the United States is threatening to block seafood imports from Russia.

According to, the average price paid by the U.S. for Canadian seafood last year was $29.14/kg — 72% more than in 2020.

In the first 11 months of last year, DFO reported the value of Newfoundland and Labrador snow crab reached $612 million — a 174% increase compared to all of 2020.

Last October, snow crab was described as "seafood gold" and "treasure."

The price of snow crab crab paid to the province's inshore fleet last year topped out on April 25th at $7.60/lb, even as market prices continued to rise almost weekly after that.

SEA-NL wrote the minister responsible for the province's fish price-setting panel last fall to ask that the system be amended: SEA-NL says priority 1 for 2022 inshore fishery is for province to amend fish price-setting system

The province has yet to act.

If the price of crab is locked in too early this year, and owner-operators once again miss out on a fair market share, there should be trouble.

The below panels are from DFO's technical briefing Tuesday on the province's snow crab stock (fishing zones 2HJ,3KLNOP4R).

Ryan Cleary,

Executive Director,


To read more about SEA-NL, and for owner-operators to join please visit our website or e-mail

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