Crab price increase bumps industry spirits

Daniel MacEachern
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Considered $96-million boost for fishermen, say producers

Crab fishermen were busy at the southside of St. John's harbour near the Prosser's Rock Small Boat Basin Tuesday morning as this year's crab fishery came to an end. Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

The price of snow crab is at its highest level in years — and that means almost $100 million more this year than last season for the province’s crab fishermen.

Earle McCurdy, president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers’ union, said the 80-cent increase this season — to $2.15 per pound — is a $96-million bump on the provincial quota of 120 million pounds of crab.

“It’s really a major improvement over a year ago,” said McCurdy, who credited the increase to higher demand after several lean years for the market.

“Last year, you may recall, we had a dispute for several weeks — the month of April, there was only two plants operating, Fogo Island Co-op and Deep Atlantic (Sea Products) in St. Mary’s. The rest of them were shut down, and it was well into May before we got started, and that made for a very compressed season for plant workers. … So last year was a very brutal year for the crab sector, and we’re certainly off to a much better start this year, to say the least.”

McCurdy said the price increase — the highest since 2004, when it was $2.47 a pound — is welcome news for everyone.

“It’s a good chance for everybody in the industry to make a dollar. It should be a more reasonably paced fishery for the plant workers,” he said.

“The shares for crew members will be up, the fishing enterprise owners will have some money coming into their enterprise to invest back in and pay some of the bills that have been piling up. For the plant operators it should be a more successful year as well.”

Derek Butler, executive director of the Association of Seafood Producers, called the increase a good price for a good market situation.

“We’ve had a couple of bad years in the fishery. A couple of difficult years and that led to price disputes, but the situation is that crab markets are generally performing well, and so we were able to reach agreement, and that’s a good news story for producers, for plants and for fishermen.”

But what about local consumers?

Chris Chafe, executive chef of St. John’s restaurant Magnum and Steins, said he’s found crab too expensive to serve in the past, so a price increase means he won’t be offering it any time soon.

“It is kind of a higher price thing — we’ve tried it a couple of times, it doesn’t really sell too well, to be honest with you, the couple times that I’ve tried it,” he said.

“It sits around, whereas with cod, I can’t keep cod in this place. Halibut, I can go through 300 pounds of halibut in a week. It’s just one of those things doesn’t really move well here.”

Twitter: TelegramDaniel

Organizations: Fogo Island Co-op, Sea Products, Association of Seafood Producers

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