Crab prices are up

Rudy Norman
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But quota cuts mean 3K fishers are no further ahead

Terry Ryan of La Scie says that the good news of rising crab prices for fishermen isn’t as good of news as it may appear – at least not for everyone.

Ryan, who owns the Oceansurfer 2 and employs a crew of five other men aboard his enterprise says the crab prices was countered by a cut in crab quotas in 3K, the area in the waters off the north eastern portion of the island, which means their higher profits are already out the door.

“There was a 10 per cent decrease in quota for 3K inshore and 3K offshore, which is the long-liners,” he said. “So even though crab prices went up 30 cents from last year, the price increase I got was wiped out by the quota cuts.”

Ryan says he’s also feeling a huge cut in his shrimp quota, which is down some 200,000 pounds.

“I got two and a half licenses that I bought up in combining processes,” he explains. “I lost 200,000 pounds – gone in one shot. Last year we averaged 65 cents a pound, so do the math and it’s a big loss.”

Ryan’s enterprise is poised to lose over $150,000 worth of quota losses this year.

“You just go on and do it and hope the banks will be nice to you,” he says. “Then next year, hopefully, it’ll be a better year – but if not, then there’s no way to survive it at all.”

Ryan says last year fishers in 3K met and even exceeded their quota, so the loss this year was a shock and something that doesn’t make sense, he said, to him and  others.


Some rewards?

While he’s feeling the effect of the loss of the quota, Ryan says there are other fishers who aren’t faring as badly – mostly thanks to their willingness to help the Fish Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) union complete surveys last fall.

Ryan explains the FFAW commissions fishing boats to carry out stock surveys each year.

According to Ryan, many other fishers wonder whether the surveys are worthwhile.

“In a lot of people’s opinion (they) don’t prove nothing, because they’re not scientific anyways,” he said. “Besides, it seems like DFO makes their quota decision based on what their own survey shows, don’t seem like they give any heed to fisherman’s catch rates over previous year and this unscientific union survey.”

In the end, according to Ryan, the fishing enterprises that participate in the surveys are rewarded with higher quotas.

 “At the same time they’re cutting our quotas 10 per cent, the surveys that were done last fall are being rewarded with extra crab,” he alleges.

In the past Ottawa would pay money to compensate enterprises for carrying out surveys. That funding has been cut, however. Now, says Ryan, survey participants are paid with extra quota.

 “Some boats are getting so high as 28,000 pounds in extra crab to catch this year as payment for doing the survey last fall,” said Ryan. “So we’re all wondering where did that crab come from? If they’re cutting the most of us, 10 per cent and giving some boats all this extra crab, where’s it coming from?”

Keith Sullivan, Assistant to the President with FFAW confirms what Ryan says about the surveys, but says the numbers aren’t as big as they appear.

“Less than one per cent of the overall crab quotas are used for the surveys,” said Sullivan. “The surveys are done in conjunction with DFO and they’re the best index of abundance we have. This is the best science we have available.”

Sullivan says last fall seven vessels took part in the survey in the area known as 3K4, which is the offshore crab fishery.

While those vessels were awarded with extra crab quotas this year, the number Ryan quotes of 28,000 pounds is a maximum, depending if all the work was done, and what areas the vessels surveyed.

Sullivan says each of the seven vessels received between 10,000 and 14,000 extra pounds of crab per survey block, and vessels are given two blocks to survey.

While he says he understands it can be frustrating for those in areas where quotas were cut, it’s important to realize that the survey program is done throughout the province.

However, Ryan says consideration should be given in areas where quotas were cut.

“Take up in 3L, where they got a four per cent increase in their quotas – yes, that makes sense,” he said. “But here, we were cut, and they’re giving out extras to the people who did this survey.”

While Ryan says he didn’t take part in the survey last year, Sullivan says the survey is open to all harvesters to take part.

For the men on the Oceansurfer 2, it could have meant an additional 28,000 pounds of crab, which would have come to nearly another $65,000 for the fishing enterprise to share up among the crew.

Sullivan notes as well that when people took part in the survey last year, they had no idea what the crab prices were going to be this year, and just like they went up, they could have just as easily went down.

“That’s the chance you take, when you’re involved in the fishery,” he says.

All crab fishing in 3K will be open by the end of April, with Ryan and others involved in the offshore 3K4 fishery beginning on April 14.

Organizations: Oceansurfer 2, DFO, Allied Workers

Geographic location: Ottawa

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