Snow crab fishing in most areas of Canada's Newfoundland and Labrador province has finally begun, following a hard fought agreement between the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW) and the Association of Seafood Producers (ASP).
The agreement, which came after a bitter six-week standoff, guarantees a lowest minimum price of CAD 2.20 (€1.50/$1.61) per pound for fishermen on a sliding scale to CAD2.75 (€1.88/$2.02) per pound as market prices increase.
While the ASP dug in, arguing that market conditions deteriorated drastically from last year's highs when crab prices for harvesters began the season at CAD7.60 (€5.19/$5.59) per pound, the FFAW originally said the CAD2.20 (€1.50/$1.61) price was too low for its members to make a living.
While the crab season opened in most areas on April 10, Newfoundland and Labrador fishermen left boats tied up in port in protest.
Talks took on greater significance because of reduced availability of crab in the market after Alaska officials cancelled two of its most important crab seasons late last year because of stock declines across the Bering Sea region.
US sanctions on Russian seafood imports since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 have also seen major shifts in trade flows. Russia, historically a significant supplier of crab to the United States, is now exporting large volumes of crab to Asian markets instead.
But a hangover in Canadian snow crab inventory from the 2022 season has not been helpful to prices in North America, even with Russian product largely off the market.
“The last several weeks have been incredibly challenging for all our members around the province, but it was not all for nothing ,” FFAW-Unifor President Greg Pretty said.
Association of Seafood Producers Executive Director Jeff Loder said the past few weeks have been "troubling," but added that the industry is "confident that we can still have a successful fishery, with public safety top of mind."
Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) announced the quota for the snow crab fishery would get an 8.4 percent increase over 2022, rising to 54,737 metric tons.
Snow crab is Newfoundland and Labrador's most valuable seafood export.
The crustacean accounted for more than half -- CAD883 million (€604 million/$650 million) -- of the CAD1.6 billion (€1.09 billion/$1.2 billion) revenue from the province's fisheries in 2021, the website of CTV News reported.