The spring season was short, but not sweet, for rock crab fishers in LFA 25 this year.
“The catches were real good this year, but we couldn’t get rid of them. We fished the first day, a Tuesday, then skipped Wednesday, were supposed to go again on Thursday and they told us they didn’t want the crab after we’d already fished, so we had to dump the crab back overboard (in the Northumberland Strait). Then we waited until the next week and we went one more day that week and they wouldn’t buy them, so that was it; we were done,” says Cape Tormentine fisher Gordon Dean.
The summer fishery for rock crab in LFA 25 ran from June 25 to July 29, while the fall season will go from Oct. 14 to Nov. 24.
“We usually fish for about three weeks (in the spring) and it gives a pretty good return, but not this year. We could’ve maybe sold them to buyers on the Island, but we’d have to take them all the way to Borden (P.E.I.) and offload them there and do other stuff, so it wouldn’t be worth it in the long run,” Dean says.
He and two other fishers in the Cape Tormentine and Murray Corner areas fish rock crab through the Botsford Professional Fisherman’s Association (BPFA) community licence.
And while three fishers in the Cape Tormentine and Botsford wharves, including Dean, hold rock crab licenses for 2017, DFO confirmed last week that there were 71 rock crab licences issued in LFA 25 in 2016.
DFO information also noted that 1,367.31 metric tonnes of rock crab were harvested in 2016 for a total value of $1,334,825.
Although the rock crab fishery isn’t generally a highly lucrative one for individual fishers, the loss of that income this year is disappointing, Dean says.
That same sentiment is echoed by Remi Cormier, owner of RC Seafood in Aldouane, N.B., who has been buying seafood in New Brunswick for more than 20 years.
“It’s tough for everyone; the fishermen, us buyers and the markets too. I’ve never seen this happen before. It’s because the snow crab quota was high, they took more time to fish. Where they were still doing the snow crab (in fish processing plants across the province) they couldn’t change over to rock crab, so they just couldn’t handle any more. But I’m hearing that won’t happen again,” Cormier says.
The markets for rock crab are still good, he says, and if fishers decide to fish the fall season, there will be markets for their catches. Given that traditionally most commercial fishing ends with the annual fall lobster season in the Northumberland Strait, fishers here are still trying to decide whether it would be worth their while to fish the fall rock crab season.