Fish processors in Newfoundland and Labrador discarded a staggering 303,202 pounds of snow crab during the most recent season, marking an alarming increase of over five times the 59,239 pounds discarded in the previous year, as per data released by the provincial Department of Fisheries, Forestry, and Agriculture. This sharp spike reflects a 411% surge in the amount of dumped crab.
(Gerard Chidley, pictured here in 2022, says this year's snow crab catch was among the lowest quality he's seen in 15 years. (Jane Adey/CBC)
While the exact reasons for this surge in dumping remain unconfirmed by officials, harvesters attribute it to a season that was both compressed and characterized by unusually warm waters. Glen Winslow, a crab harvester, reported that the plant he supplies made efforts to manage the volume of product awaiting processing, but he observed quality issues arising from the crab season extending into the hottest months of the year.
"The water was a lot warmer this year than in previous years; there's no doubt about that," Winslow explained. "It didn't seem like the crab lasted a long while once you took it out of the water."
The 2023 snow crab season faced challenges right from the start, marked by a six-week standoff over the $2.20-per-pound price. This protracted negotiation delayed the commencement of the season until May, leading harvesters to scramble to catch as much as possible before the cut-off date and resulting in a backlog of boats on the water and product at processing plants.
Experienced harvester Gerard Chidley noted that the quality of crab in 2023 was the worst since 2008 or 2010, with many being critically weak, close to death. He attributed the bottleneck at processing plants to the delayed start of the season, which forced both inshore and offshore fleets onto the water simultaneously. Chidley also linked the increased prevalence of critically weak crab to warmer waters, pointing out that Newfoundland experienced the greatest ocean temperature increase in North America that summer.
(Harvester Glen Winslow says waters were noticeably warmer this year. (Kyle Mooney/CBC)
Jeff Loder, president of the Association of Seafood Producers, acknowledged the challenges of fishing snow crab in July and August but did not offer an explanation for the increased dumping. Provincial Fisheries Minister Elvis Loveless also did not address the dumping surge directly but acknowledged that the compressed season resulted in increased landings and fish processing, leading to the identification of quality issues. Despite numerous questions surrounding the issue, key figures, including Loder, Loveless, and Greg Pretty, president of Fish, Food & Allied Workers-Unifor, declined interview requests. The Newfoundland and Labrador snow crab fishery, the world's largest, experienced record landings and processing in 2023, according to the FFAW, representing approximately 20,000 fish harvesters and plant workers.Source: Kyle Mooney. (Oct 3, 2023). N.L. processors dumped 5 times as much crab in 2023 as they did last year. CBC News. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/crab-dumping-increase-2023-1.6979682