By:  John Sackton

The Gulf snow crab supply picture from Atlantic Canada is coming into better focus. The Canadian DFO announced today that the quota in the Southern Gulf, which was 21,725 tons last year, will more than double to 43,822 tons this year.


Combined with the Newfoundland quota of 35,419 tons, total Canadian harvests from the two primary producing areas will total 79,241 tons of crab, or nearly 175 million pounds of live crab if the entire quota is caught.

In 2016, these two areas had combined quota of 62,531 tons. Actual catches in Newfoundland were about 3,000 tons below the quota. The Gulf quota was 100% caught in 2016.

Assuming that actual harvests will be below the quota in both Newfoundland and the Gulf, a conservative estimate is that these areas will put 75,000 tons on the market, compared to 59,000 in 2016. This is an increase of 27%.

There will be some slight decreases in Quebec and Nova Scotia, while in Labrador 2J remains about the same.

The DFO report showed snow crab biomass in the Southern Gulf near 100,000 tons, near its highest ever recorded level of 103,000 tons. This allowed them to use a 44.2% exploitation rate, with a 95% confidence that the biomass available to the fishery in 2018 will be in the range of 77,000 tons (the actual range is 62,000 to 93,000 tons).

Gulf snow crab biomass

Figure from DFO Report Showing far biomass is above minimum harvest levels.

The tone of the report strongly suggests that the biomass will again be very high for the 2018 fishery, in the top 25% of all years.

The psychology of the crab market shifted in the winter of 2016, when Alaska quotas were cut substantially. Sellers who were very successful with crab in 2015 were not expecting to run into a resource shortage. The resulting rise in price has dominated snow crab markets since then.

It was also the basis for the Price Panel in Newfoundland to award a $CA 4.39 minimum crab price to Harvesters ($3.31) for live crab, based on record prices paid this winter.

The change in the supply picture this month will undoubtedly have another market impact.

Wholesale crab prices may see a lot of volatility at the beginning of the season due to the different factors influencing the different producing areas.

Newfoundland, which is likely to open first, is seeing a 22% quota cut, and will see intense competition among processors to secure crab.

The Gulf, which will open later due to the presence of ice in some harbors around Shippigan, will see heavy landings and likely trip limits, so processors will be working at capacity and eager to quickly sell product to finance more purchases.

In May, when the fishery has been underway for a few weeks, a clearer picture of the market demand and supply should emerge.

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