Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has set the total allowable catch (TAC) for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador's snow crab fishery at 26,894 metric tons, a 9% cut on the 28,975t allowed in 2018.
However, the sounds being made by harvesters are less groans than sighs of relief, as the reduction is a third of what they feared.
The biggest surprise was in NL's largest snow crab fishing area, 3LNO, which has received a TAC of 15,818t, a 16% decrease year-on-year, though the reduction is 26% out of the 200-mile limit and 15% inside the 200-mile limit.
The second-largest zone, 3K, will be allowed to harvest up to 5,856t, just a 1% decrease, whlie the 3Ps will get 2,649t, a 48% increase. Quota levels in 2HJ will remain unchanged.
The reductions are not as steep as in 2018, when DFO cut the overall snow crab TAC for NL by 17%, and they aren't nearly as bad as the 30% cuts harvesters heard were being considered by DFO officials.
And months earlier -- in January at the Global Seafood Market Conference, in San Diego, California -- predictions were made for a 35-45% cut in the 3LNO area, words that had wholesalers concerned as supply has been tight and prices high.
Hundreds of NL harvesters had shown up at back-to-back meetings in the town of Grand Falls-Windsor to express their concerns.
“Fish harvesters are not interested in taking every last fish out of the water. We want a sustainable fishery and we do not believe the science supports drastic cuts in our area suggested by DFO,” Trevor Jones, a fish harvester and crab committee representative from Green Bay, said at one of the meetings.
The news comes just a few days before the snow crab seasons kick off around Newfoundland. 3LNO starts on April 8 and 3K begins on April 14.
The Fish Food & Allied Workers Union (FFAW-Unifor) was in a celebratory mood on Wednesday.
“It’s clear DFO is listening to the concerns raised by harvesters and is making a serious effort to take a more collaborative approach,” said FFAW-Unifor president Keith Sullivan in a press release.
“This management plan is proof that by working together, we can get results and build a sustainable fishery into the future that works for harvesters, plant workers and their communities,” he said.