Slight price increase for crab, although some quotas cut dramatically

The stage is wet for the 2015 crab fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador, and as is often the case, the news is a mix of good and bad depending on where you live.

Late Thursday afternoon, Fisheries and Oceans Canada released its 2015 management plan, which comes with a steep 23 per cent cut for harvesters in area 3Ps off the south coast of Newfoundland. Their quota this year will be about 4,300 tonnes.

In area 3K along the northeast coast of the Island, the quota was set at 7,294 tonnes, which represents a cut of about 10 per cent.

Other fishing areas including 2J off Labrador and 4R3Pn in the Gulf of St. Lawrence remained unchanged from last year, with 1,765 and 1,067 tonnes respectively.

Area 3LNO, off eastern Newfoundland, had a slight increase in quota of about one per cent, bring the total allowable catch in that area to 35,698 tonnes.

Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea said the cuts were made in 3Ps and 3K on the basis of scientific advice.

"We cannot afford to not follow the science," she said. "A reduction is always difficult no matter what. But from where I sit I have an obligation to ensure that stocks are well managed, so I have to adhere to the science."

Price set at $2.34

As for the price, on Thursday the province's Fish Price Setting Panel announced a decision of $2.34 per pound.

That price was in line with what was proposed by seafood processors, and is up slightly from $2.30 per pound paid out in 2014.

Still, the fisheries union says the decision doesn't make sense based on how they view the markets in combination with a highly favourable exchange rate in the United States.

"We're extremely disappointed with the panel's decision on pricing this year," said FFAW President Keith Sullivan. "Even though it's an increase over last year it's relatively small. Our proposal was for $2.45 per pound, which we feel our interpretation of the market could certainly support."

As for the management plan, Sullivan said he was disappointed that the crab management plan wasn't released until the last minute, days before a long weekend for a fishery that starts in many areas on Monday.

And he says the cuts are ones that will hit many harvesters hard this year, especially in 3Ps.

"Those cuts go extremely deep. It will make opportunities in other fisheries more important," Sullivan said, adding that the 10 per cent cut in 3K was also a disappointment given that harvesters had recommended the quota there be status quo.

"Every pound is very precious these days considering the cuts we have seen in the past," he said.

The crab fishery will open in 3Ps, 3LNO and 4R3Pn on Monday.

Most of area 3K opens April 14 (except areas 3B and 3C which open April 20 and 27, respectively); and 2J opens in June.