P.E.I. snow crab fishers thankful for big catches as price plummets

Carter Hutt says this year's good catch helped balance out the low prices for snow crab this year.  (Carter Hutt/CBC - image credit)
Carter Hutt says this year's good catch helped balance out the low prices for snow crab this year. (Carter Hutt/CBC - image credit)

Snow crab fishers on P.E.I. say the price they're getting for their catch is lower than it's been in years.

Crab fishers were getting $8 a pound at the wharf last year. This year, the price has plummeted to $2.25.

Fishers in some other parts of the Atlantic region are staying off the water because of the low price.

Meanwhile, Island snow crab fishers have wrapped up their season.

Carter Hutt, who heads the P.E.I. Snow Crab Association, said the catch was so good this year, he made his full quota in just a couple weeks.

The Northport fisherman said that with the price so low and expenses so high, it was the one thing that saved him from losing money.

Steve Bruce/CBC
Steve Bruce/CBC

"If you make a trip for 5,000 pounds or come in with 20,000, it basically costs you the same amount for that trip," he said.

"If you can make it in a lot less trips, it helps your bottom line that way. So that was the good thing this year, with very high catch rates."

Hutt said the industry just didn't rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic as buyers and processors had expected last year.

"A lot of buyers bought a lot of product. And it ended up [not selling]. It stayed in storage, and stopped selling," he said.

Couldn't afford to wait

While some crab fishers in the region decided to hold off hitting the water with the hopes prices would improve, Hutt said the Island's 30 or so fishers couldn't afford to wait.

He said the later into the season they go, the more the risk of endangered right whales showing up in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and getting tangled in their gear.

"That was one of the main things: to get out on the water early before the whales show up, and get our quota caught," Hutt said.

"If not, we're into closed grids and closed zones. So, I don't think it was even questionable that we'd stay tied up."

Hutt said with prices so low, he likely just broke even this year from crab fishing.

The good news, he said, is that he also fishes lobster, which is selling for a better price this season.

Hutt said he's also heard demand for crab is starting to increase, which he hopes will lead to higher prices next year.